Mission Red Planet

Mission Red Planet

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to send a space craft to Mars in November. The idea is to tell the world that ISRO can send a...

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to send a space craft to Mars in November. The idea is to tell the world that ISRO can send a craft all the way to Mars. If it can make any scientific discovery it will be a bonus. The latest images of Mars beamed back by rover Curiosity of the US space agency has caught the imagination of space buffs all over. We now have a clear view of the Martian landscape and what lies beneath the surface. It was known that the planet is red because of iron oxides in the dust. Chemical analysis of the dust, announced just last week, reveals that it includes hydrogen which scientists believe could be in the form of hydroxyl or water molecule. Martian imagery collected over the years has already hinted that the Martian wasteland once had raging volcanoes, deep craters plowed by meteors and flash floods rushing over the land. Water is the key because there is life almost wherever there is water. If Mars once had liquid water - or still has - does it harbour life forms (microscopic or otherwise)? This is the most exciting scientific question the world is seeking an answer to. With its maiden mission to the red planet in six months from now, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is seeking to formally join the quest. Given the fact that the first close-up pictures of the Mars were obtained way back in 1965 and a number of missions have been sent to this planet since then, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) of ISRO may sound just a moderate effort. But with this mission, the agency is setting its eyes high. Until now only the US, Russia, the European Space Agency and Japan have sent spacecraft to Mars. Many orbiters are still circling the planet, but only two - Odyssey and Reconnaissance - of NASA are still sending back data to the earth. ISRO is sending a spacecraft � much like its moon mission Chandrayaan. Lander missions like Curiosity are a different class altogether. "It is our first interplanetary mission with a spacecraft designed to orbit Mars in an elliptical orbit of 372 km by 80,000 km. It is a technologically challenging mission taking a spacecraft out of the earth's gravitational field," ISRO scientists explained. MOM is slated for launch during October- November 2013 on board an extended version of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-XL) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on the east coast. "The Chandrayaan- 1 experience will help, but beyond the fact that the Mars mission will use the same launch vehicle, PSLV-XL, there are no similarities between the two missions", pointed out Madan Lal, space scientist who was closely involved with the moon mission. To begin with, the flight duration is very long - about 300 days to reach the Mars orbit compared to five-and-a-half days it took for Chandrayaan-1 to reach the lunar orbit. After launch, MOM will first encircle in an earth-bound orbit six times before escaping the earth's gravity to enter the Martian transfer trajectory - after which it will be injected into the Mars orbit. The orbit manoeuvering will be done through the onboard propulsion system of the satellite - Liquid Apogee Motors, but it will have to be fired after long time and a number of times. It takes anywhere from six months to about a year to get a spacecraft from the Earth to Mars. The distance between the two planets is constantly changing since both are orbiting the Sun at different rates and are at different distances. Spacecrafts are usually sent to Mars when the two planets are in a favourable configuration to reduce the fuel and time needed to travel. This happens about once in every 26 months. That's why the current window in November 2013 is critical for the launch of MOM. For the Curiosity rover, the flight lasted a little over eight months. "Withstanding the effects of radiation in deep space for such a long time and manoeuvering and tracking the craft from the ground are the most technologically challenging tasks", Lal added. � Dailymail
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