MOM’s Last Night on Earth; Midnight Marvel for India’s Mars Mission – Live Webcast

It’ s a Mind-Blowing Midnight Marvel !
India’s fueled PSLV rocket and Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) await Nov. 5 blastoff at 14:38 hrs IST (9:08 UTC, 4:08 a.m. EST). Credit: ISRO.
Watch ISRO’s Live Webcast[/caption]

MOM is spending her last night on Earth – and she’s a Mind-Blowing Midnight Marvel !

The pride of all India, and everyone’s favorite MOM is healthy and set to embark on the nation’s first ever interplanetary voyage of exploration. She aims to conduct a detailed study of the Martian atmosphere and sniff for methane – a potential indicator for life.

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was designed and developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) which is broadcasting a live webcast of the launch starting at 14:00 hrs IST, 3:30 a.m. EST at – http://isro.org/

“All vehicle systems have been switched ON,” as of now, says ISRO.

Now less than 8 hours from blastoff, the PSLV-C25 booster rocket is fully fueled and poised to streak from ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota, located on India’s east coast in Andhra Pradesh state.

If all goes well with MOM, India joins an elite club of four who have launched probes that successfully investigated the Red Planet from orbit or the surface – following the Soviet Union, the United States and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Reaching Mars successfully is an enormous technological challenge. More than half of all Earth’s attempts have failed. But those who fail to ‘dare mighty things’ are doomed to timidity and ignominy.

Gorgeous view of the majestic Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV C25 with its passenger, the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO's) Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft inside. The Mobile service tower is also seen in the background.  Credit: IRSO
Gorgeous view of the majestic Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV C25 with its passenger, the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO’s) Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft inside. The Mobile service tower is also seen in the background. Credit: IRSO

ISRO reports that the weather outlook is favorable for an on time launch on Nov 05, 2013 at 14:38 hrs IST (9:08 UTC, 4:08 a.m. EST).

“Weather Forecast for launch day based on today’s image from Kalpana Meteorological Satellite: Early morning, cloudy and low probability of Rain, No severe weather expected. During launch window – partly cloudy weather and no rain is expected.”

“Looks like we are heading towards a bright and sunny day for the launch,” says ISRO.

Today's weather image from India’s Kalpana Meteorological Satellite. Credit: ISRO
Today’s weather image from India’s Kalpana Meteorological Satellite. Credit: ISRO

Just hours ago the final loading of propellants into the rocket’s liquid fueled second stage (PS2) with highly toxic nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine was satisfactorily completed.

The launch gantry has been retracted to a distance of 50 meters and the 44 meter (144 foot) tall four stage PSLV booster stands at the ready under the gaze of the starry night.

Two tracking ships – SCI Nalanda and SCI Yamuna – have been deployed to the Indian Ocean.

They are now in position to relay critical in flight telemetry during the ignition of the PSLV-C25 fourth stage and the spacecraft’s separation from the rocket at T plus 44 minutes.

“For about ten minutes between the separation of third stage of PSLV and ignition of fourth stage the vehicle will not be visible from any ground stations as will be evident in the Live telecast,” says ISRO.

Tracking MOM !  Credit: ISRO
Tracking MOM ! Credit: ISRO

And the launch team is leaving no stone unturned to ensure success!

“As the country gets embraced in deep sleep – don’t forget a few hundred tireless minds at ISRO – rock-steady on their consoles and keeping their strict vigil on the several health parameters of the rocket and the MoM spacecraft,” said ISRO in a statement.

And here’s a poetic tribute to MOM from ISRO

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MOM is the first of two new Mars orbiter science probes from Earth set to blast off for the Red Planet this November. On the other side of Earth, NASA’s MAVEN orbiter remains on target to launch barely two weeks after MOM on Nov. 18 – from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The 1,350 kilogram (2,980 pound) MOM orbiter is also known as‘Mangalyaan’ – which in Hindi means ‘Mars craft.’

‘Mangalyaan’ is outfitted with an array of five indigenous science instruments including a multi color imager and a methane gas sniffer to study the Red Planet’s atmosphere, morphology, mineralogy and surface features. Methane on Earth originates from both geological and biological sources – and could be a potential marker for the existence of Martian microbes.

The PSLV will inject MOM into an initially elliptical Earth parking orbit of 248 km x 23,500 km. A series of six orbit raising burns will eventually place MOM on a trajectory to Mars around December 1.

Tracking the MOM Mission! A complex network of ground stations, as indicated in the image, has been laid out for keeping an eye on the various phases of PSLV-C25/ ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission, including the launch, Earth bound maneuvers, Heliocentric phase as well as the Martian phase.  Additionally, two ship borne terminals have also been deployed in the southern Pacific Ocean to cover critical events during the launch phase. After satellite separation from the launch vehicle, the Spacecraft  operations are controlled from the Spacecraft Control Centre of ISRO Telemetry, Tracking And Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore.
Tracking the MOM Mission!
A complex network of ground stations, as indicated in the image, has been laid out for keeping an eye on the various phases of PSLV-C25/ ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission, including the launch, Earth bound maneuvers, Heliocentric phase as well as the Martian phase. Additionally, two ship borne terminals have also been deployed in the southern Pacific Ocean to cover critical events during the launch phase. After satellite separation from the launch vehicle, the Spacecraft operations are controlled from the Spacecraft Control Centre of ISRO Telemetry, Tracking And Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore.

Following a 300 day interplanetary cruise phase, the do or die orbital insertion engine will fire on September 24, 2014 and place MOM into an 366 km x 80,000 km elliptical orbit.

MOM and MAVEN both arrive in Mars orbit within days of one another next September – joining Earth’s invasion fleet of five operational orbiters and intrepid surface rovers currently unveiling the mysteries of the Red Planet.


MAVEN’s goal
is to study Mars atmosphere in unprecedented detail. The MAVEN and MOM science teams will “work together” to unlock the secrets of Mars atmosphere, MAVEN’s top scientist told Universe Today.

“We have had some discussions with their science team, and there are some overlapping objectives,” Bruce Jakosky told me. Jakosky is MAVEN’s principal Investigator from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“At the point where we [MAVEN and MOM] are both in orbit collecting data we do plan to collaborate and work together with the data jointly,” Jakosky said.

Godspeed MOM !

Ken Kremer

Countdown Commences for India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)

The countdown has commenced and the excitement is building for India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) – which will conduct a detailed study of the Martian atmosphere and is the nation’s first ever mission to the Red Planet.

The 56 hour 30 min countdown started at 6:06 a.m. IST today (Nov. 3), according to an official statement from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) leading to liftoff on Tuesday, Nov 5, from a seaside launch pad in Sriharikota, India.

MOM is the first of two new Mars orbiter science probes from Earth set to blast off for the Red Planet this November. Half a globe away, NASA’s MAVEN orbiter remains on target to launch barely two weeks after MOM on Nov. 18 – from the Florida Space Coast.

A bird's eye view of the Spaceport of India ! Panaromic view of First Launch Pad with 44 meter tall PSLV-C25 rocket during launch rehearsal - Ready to commence the space voyage of ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft. The Mobile service tower and the Second Launch pad are also seen.Credit: ISRO
A bird’s eye view of the Spaceport of India
Panaromic view of First Launch Pad with 44 meter tall PSLV-C25 rocket during launch rehearsal – Ready to commence the space voyage of ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft. The Mobile service tower and the Second Launch Pad are also seen.Credit: ISRO

ISRO will broadcast the momentous MOM launch live at – starting at 14:00 hrs IST.

“The Launch Authorisation Board has approved & cleared the PSLV-C25/Mars Orbiter Mission launch on Nov 05, 2013 at 14:38 hrs IST (9:08 UTC, 4:08 a.m. EST)” from the state-of-the-art Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota, located on India’s east coast in Andhra Pradesh state.

MOM is on schedule to lift off atop the powerful, extended XL version of India’s highly reliable four stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C25).

Fueling of the PSLV-C25/Mars Orbiter Mission rocket stages is now in progress following a completely successful dress rehearsal and launch countdown exercise completed on Oct. 31.

“The filling of propellants into the Roll Control Thrusters as well as the Fourth stage of the PSLV C25 rocket [with mixed nitrogen oxides and monomethylhydrazine] is completed,” ISRO declared a short while ago.

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During the dress rehearsal the vehicle systems were powered, the health was normal and the spacecraft & launch vehicle integrated level checks were completed.

Two tracking ships have been deployed to the Indian Ocean to relay critical in flight telemetry.

The 44 meter (144 ft) PSLV will launch MOM into an initially elliptical Earth parking orbit of 248 km x 23,500 km. A series of six orbit raising burns will eventually dispatch MOM on a trajectory to Mars around December 1.

Graphic outlines India’s first ever probe to explore the Red Planet known as the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM).  Launch is set for Nov. 5 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Srihairkota, India. Credit: ISRO
Graphic outlines India’s first ever probe to explore the Red Planet known as the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Launch is set for Nov. 5 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota, India. Credit: ISRO

Following a 300 day interplanetary cruise phase, the do or die Mars orbital insertion engine will fire on September 21, 2014 and place MOM into an 366 km x 80,000 km elliptical orbit.

MOM arrives about the same time as NASA’s MAVEN orbiter. They will significantly bolster Earth’s armada of five operational orbiters and surface rovers currently investigating the Red Planet.

MAVEN and MOM will “work together” to help solve the mysteries of Mars atmosphere, the chief MAVEN scientist told Universe Today.

“We plan to collaborate on some overlapping objectives,” Bruce Jakosky told me. Jakosky is MAVEN’s principal Investigator from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) Spacecraft attached to the 4th stage of PSLV-C25 and ready for heat shield closure. It is slated to launch on Nov. 5, 2013. Credit: ISRO
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) Spacecraft attached to the 4th stage of PSLV-C25 and ready for heat shield closure. It is slated to launch on Nov. 5, 2013. Credit: ISRO

The 1,350 kilogram (2,980 pound) MOM orbiter, also known as ‘Mangalyaan’, is the brainchild of ISRO.

‘Mangalyaan’ is outfitted with an array of five indigenous science instruments including a multi color imager and a methane gas sniffer to study the Red Planet’s atmosphere, morphology, mineralogy and surface features. Methane on Earth originates from both biological and geological sources.

Stacking of the  PSLV-C25/Mars Orbiter Mission rocket stages at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, SHAR, India. Credit: IRSO
Stacking of the PSLV-C25/Mars Orbiter Mission rocket stages at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, SHAR, India. Credit: IRSO

MOM’s 15 kg (33 lb) science suite comprises:

MCM: the tri color Mars Color Camera images the planet and its two tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos

LAP: the Lyman Alpha Photometer measures the abundance of hydrogen and deuterium to understand the planets water loss process

TIS: the Thermal Imaging Spectrometer will map surface composition and mineralogy

MENCA: the Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser is a quadrapole mass spectrometer to analyze atmospheric composition

MSM: the Methane Sensor for Mars measures traces of potential atmospheric methane down to the ppm level.

Scientists will be paying close attention to whether MOM detects any atmospheric methane to compare with measurements from NASA’s Curiosity rover – which found ground level methane to be essentially nonexistent – and Europe’s upcoming 2016 ExoMarsTrace Gas Orbiter.

Although there are no NASA instruments on board MOM, NASA is providing key communications and navigation support to ISRO and MOM through the agency’s trio of huge tracking antennas in the Deep Space Network (DSN).

“At the point where we [MAVEN and MOM] are both in orbit collecting data we do plan to collaborate and work together with the data jointly,” MAVEN’s PI Jakosky told me.

“We agreed on the value of collaboration and will hold real discussions at a later time,” he noted.

India would become only the 4th nation or entity from Earth to survey Mars up close with spacecraft, following the Soviet Union, the United States and the European Space Agency (ESA)- if all goes well.

Past attempts to reach the Red Planet from both China and Japan have unfortunately failed.

Some observers speculate that India’s MOM mission will ignite a new Asian Space Race.

The $69 Million ‘Mangalyaan’ mission is expected to continue gathering measurements at the Red Planet for at least six months and hopefully much longer.

Long live MOM !

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about MAVEN, MOM, Mars rovers, Orion and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations

Nov 14-19: “MAVEN Mars Launch and Curiosity Explores Mars, Orion and NASA’s Future”, Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, 8 PM

Dec 11: “Curiosity, MAVEN and the Search for Life on Mars”, “LADEE & Antares ISS Launches from Virginia”, Rittenhouse Astronomical Society, Franklin Institute, Phila, PA, 8 PM

MAVEN and MOM Missions from NASA and India Plan Martian Science Collaboration in Orbit

After years of hard work by dedicated science and engineering teams, a new pair of Mars orbiter science missions from Earth are in the final stages of prelaunch processing and are nearly set to blast off for the Red Planet in November.

If all goes well, NASA’s MAVEN orbiter and India’s MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) will “work together” to help solve the mysteries of Mars atmosphere, the chief MAVEN scientist told Universe Today at a NASA briefing today (Oct. 28).

“We plan to collaborate on some overlapping objectives,” Bruce Jakosky told me. Jakosky is MAVEN’s principal Investigator from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

MAVEN and MOM will join Earth’s armada of five operational orbiters and surface rovers currently exploring the Red Planet.

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) Spacecraft attached to the 4th stage of PSLV-C25 and ready for heat shield closure. It is slated to launch on Nov. 5, 2013. Credit: ISRO
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) Spacecraft attached to the 4th stage of PSLV-C25 and ready for heat shield closure. It is slated to launch on Nov. 5, 2013. Credit: ISRO

MOM is India’s first mission to Mars. Its also first in line to this year’s Martian on ramp and is slated to lift off in barely one week on Nov. 5 atop the most powerful version of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket from a seaside launch pad in Srihanikota, India.

The 1,350 kilogram (2,980 pound) MOM orbiter, also known as ‘Mangalyaan’, is the brainchild of ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organization.

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission (MAVEN) spacecraft launches in three weeks on Nov. 18 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from a seaside pad on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Both MAVEN and MOM will study the Red Planets atmosphere. Although they are independent and carrying different science payloads the two missions do have some common goals.

“There are some overlapping objectives between MAVEN and MOM,” Jakosky said.

“We have had some discussions with the MOM science team.”

Magnetometer science instrument boom juts out from MAVEN solar panel during launch processing inside the clean room at the Kennedy Space Center.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Magnetometer science instrument boom juts out from MAVEN solar panel during launch processing inside the clean room at the Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Both orbiters are due to arrive at Mars in September 2014 after 10 month interplanetary cruises and will enter different elliptical orbits after main engine braking burns.

MAVEN is the first spacecraft from Earth devoted to investigating and understanding the upper atmosphere of Mars.

The purpose is to study specific processes and determine how and why Mars lost virtually all of its atmosphere billions of years ago and what effect that had on the history of climate change and habitability.

“The major questions about the history of Mars center on the history of its climate and atmosphere and how that’s influenced the surface, geology and the possibility for life,” said Jakosky.

“MAVEN will focus on understanding the history of the atmosphere, how the climate has changed through time, and how that influenced the evolution of the surface and the potential for habitability by microbes on Mars.”

“We don’t know the driver of the change.”

“Where did the water go and where did the carbon dioxide go from the early atmosphere? What were the mechanisms?”

“That’s what driving our exploration of Mars with MAVEN,” said Jakosky.

One of the significant differences between MOM and MAVEN regards methane detection – which is a potential marker for Martian life. Some 90% of Earth’s atmospheric methane derives from living organisms.

MOM has a methane sensor but not MAVEN.

“We just had to leave that one off to stay focused and to stay within the available resources ,” Jakosky told me.

MAVEN carries nine sensors in three instrument suites.

The Particles and Fields Package, provided by the University of California at Berkeley with support from CU/LASP and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., contains six instruments to characterize the solar wind and the ionosphere of Mars. The Remote Sensing Package, built by CU/LASP, will determine global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. The Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, built by Goddard, will measure the composition of Mars’ upper atmosphere.

MOM’s science complement comprises the tri color Mars Color Camera to image the planet and its two moons, Phobos and Deimos; the Lyman Alpha Photometer to measure the abundance of hydrogen and deuterium and understand the planets water loss process; a Thermal Imaging Spectrometer to map surface composition and mineralogy, the MENCA mass spectrometer to analyze atmospheric composition, and the Methane Sensor for Mars to measure traces of potential atmospheric methane down to the ppm level.

Graphic outlines India’s first ever probe to explore the Red Planet known as the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM).  Launch is set for Nov. 5 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Srihairkota, India. Credit: ISRO
Graphic outlines India’s first ever probe to explore the Red Planet known as the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Launch is set for Nov. 5 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Srihairkota, India. Credit: ISRO

“At the point where we [MAVEN and MOM] are both in orbit collecting data we do plan to collaborate and work together with the data jointly,” Jakosky told me.

“We agreed on the value of collaboration and will hold real discussions at a later time,” he noted.

NASA is providing key communications and navigation support to ISRO and MOM through the agency’s trio of huge tracking antennas in the Deep Space Network (DSN).

Over the course of its one-Earth-year primary mission, MAVEN will observe all of Mars’ latitudes at altitudes ranging from 93 miles to more than 3,800 miles.

MAVEN will execute five deep dip maneuvers during the first year, descending to an altitude of 78 miles. This marks the lower boundary of the planet’s upper atmosphere.

MAVEN has sufficient fuel reserves on board to continue observations for more than a decade.

The spacecraft will function as an indispensible orbital relay by transmitting surface science data through the “Electra” from NASA’s ongoing Curiosity and Opportunity rovers as well as the planned 2020 rover.

Stay tuned here for continuing MAVEN and MOM news and my launch reports from on site at the Kennedy Space Center press center.

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about MAVEN, Mars rovers, Orion and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations

Nov 15-19: “MAVEN Mars Launch and Curiosity Explores Mars, Orion and NASA’s Future”, Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, 8 PM

NASA’s MAVEN Mars orbiter, chief scientist Prof. Bruce Jakosky of CU-Boulder and Ken Kremer of Universe Today inside the clean room at the Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 27, 2013. MAVEN launches to Mars on Nov. 18, 2013 from Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
NASA’s MAVEN Mars orbiter, chief scientist Prof. Bruce Jakosky of CU-Boulder and Ken Kremer of Universe Today inside the clean room at the Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 27, 2013. MAVEN launches to Mars on Nov. 18, 2013 from Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

India’s First Mars Mission Set to Blast off Seeking Methane Signature

India is gearing up for its first ever space undertaking to the Red Planet – dubbed the Mars Orbiter Mission, or MOM – which is the brainchild of the Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO.

Among other objectives, MOM will conduct a highly valuable search for potential signatures of Martian methane – which could stem from either living or non living sources. The historic Mars bound probe also serves as a forerunner to bolder robotic exploration goals.

If all goes well India would become only the 4th nation or entity from Earth to survey Mars up close with spacecraft, following the Soviet Union, the United States and the European Space Agency (ESA).

The 1,350 kilogram (2,980 pound) orbiter, also known as ‘Mangalyaan’, is slated to blast off as early as Oct. 28 atop India’s highly reliable Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from a seaside launch pad in Srihanikota, India.

India’s first ever probe to explore the Red Planet known as the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), is due to liftoff as early as Oct. 28 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Srihairkota, India. Credit: ISRO
India’s first ever probe to explore the Red Planet known as the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), is due to liftoff as early as Oct. 28 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Srihairkota, India. Credit: ISRO

MOM is outfitted with an array of five science instruments including a multi color imager and a methane gas sniffer to study the Red Planet’s atmosphere, morphology, mineralogy and surface features. Methane on Earth originates from both biological and geological sources.

ISRO officials are also paying close attention to the local weather to ascertain if remnants from Tropical Cyclone Phaillin or another developing weather system in the South Pacific could impact liftoff plans.

The launch target date will be set following a readiness review on Friday, said ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan according to Indian press reports.

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft being prepared for a prelaunch test at Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Srihairkota. Credit: ISRO
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft being prepared for a prelaunch test at Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Srihairkota. Credit: ISRO

‘Mangalyaan’ is undergoing final prelaunch test and integration at ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Srihairkota on the east coast of Andhra Pradesh state following shipment from ISRO’s Bangalore assembly facility on Oct. 3.

ISRO has already assembled the more powerful XL extended version of the four stage PSLV launcher at Srihairkota.

MOM’s launch window extends about three weeks until Nov. 19 – which roughly coincides with the opening of the launch window for NASA’s next mission to Mars, the MAVEN orbiter.

The upcoming Nov. 18 blastoff of NASA’s new MAVEN Mars orbiter was threatened by the US Federal Government shutdown when all launch processing work ceased on Oct. 1.  Spacecraft preps had now resumed on Oct. 3 after receiving an emergency exemption. MAVEN  was unveiled to the media, including Universe Today, inside the cleanroom at the Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 27, 2013. With solar panels unfurled, this is exactly how MAVEN looks when flying through space.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
The upcoming Nov. 18 blastoff of NASA’s new MAVEN Mars orbiter was threatened by the US Federal Government shutdown when all launch processing work ceased on Oct. 1. Spacecraft preps had now resumed on Oct. 3 after receiving an emergency exemption. MAVEN was unveiled to the media, including Universe Today, inside the cleanroom at the Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 27, 2013. With solar panels unfurled, this is exactly how MAVEN looks when flying through space. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

MAVEN’s on time blastoff from Florida on Nov. 18, had been threatened by the chaos caused by the partial US government shutdown that finally ended this morning (Oct. 17), until the mission was granted an ‘emergency exemption’ due to the critical role it will play in relaying data from NASA’s ongoing pair of surface rovers – Curiosity and Opportunity.

NASA is providing key communications and navigation support to ISRO and MOM through the agency’s trio of huge tracking antennas in the Deep Space Network (DSN).

As India’s initial mission to Mars, ISRO says that the mission’s objectives are both technological and scientific to demonstrate the nation’s capability to design an interplanetary mission and carry out fundamental Red Planet research with a suite of indigenously built instruments.

MOM’s science complement comprises includes the tri color Mars Color Camera to image the planet and its two moon, Phobos and Diemos; the Lyman Alpha Photometer to measure the abundance of hydrogen and deuterium and understand the planets water loss process; a Thermal Imaging Spectrometer to map surface composition and mineralogy, the MENCA mass spectrometer to analyze atmospheric composition, and the Methane Sensor for Mars to measure traces of potential atmospheric methane down to the ppm level.

It will be of extremely great interest to compare any methane detection measurements from MOM to those ongoing from NASA’s Curiosity rover – which found ground level methane to be essentially nonexistent – and Europe’s planned 2016 ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.

MOM’s design builds on spacecraft heritage from India’s Chandrayaan 1 lunar mission that investigated the Moon from 2008 to 2009.

The 44 meter (144 ft) PSLV will launch MOM into an initially elliptical Earth parking orbit of 248 km x 23,000 km. A series of six orbit raising burns will eventually dispatch MOM on a trajectory to Mars by late November, assuming an Oct. 28 liftoff.

Following a 300 day interplanetary cruise phase, the do or die orbital insertion engine will fire on September 14, 2014 and place MOM into an 377 km x 80,000 km elliptical orbit.

NASA’s MAVEN is also due to arrive in Mars orbit during September 2014.

The $69 Million ‘Mangalyaan’ mission is expected to continue gathering measurements at the Red Planet for at least six months and perhaps ten months or longer.

Ken Kremer

Awesome Map of Space Agencies Around the World

When you think of space agencies around the world, what comes to mind? Probably NASA, ESA, ISRO and JAXA are the acronyms you know; then there’s the Russian Federal Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, and the China National Space Agency. But did you know there are dozens of countries with space agencies, with nearly 200 space agencies and centers around the world? Blogger Heather Archuletta has put together a map and list of all the space agencies on the planet, including countries you may not have realized had a space agency such as Argentina, Bulgaria, Pakistan Morocco, and more. The list includes links to all the space agency’s websites and a link to an interactive Google Map. The immediate thought that came to mind, which Heather shared on Twitter was, ROAD TRIP!

For any space nerd, that would be the ultimate global trek, to visit every space agency in the world. With all the NASA and Russian centers and all the various countries in ESA, your trip would include 198 locations around our planet!

Heather is known for her Pillownaut blog which originally detailed her time participating in NASA bedrest studies to simulate long duration spaceflight. The space agency map was a new project, born from a conversation with a friend.

“Overall, I created it to be a tracking tool, and to show how huge the space industry has become,” Heather told Universe Today. “Many people think of the space game as being the US, Russia and a handful of Europeans… but truly, lifestyle in many countries is dependent upon the use of space, even if it’s just as simple as remote sensing or collaborative satellites.”

Heather noted that the map includes one site in India that is not operational yet, but built.

But consider how many jobs around the world have been created because of space exploration… and these jobs employ some of the best and brightest minds in forward-thinking, global-enriching ways. And even more, there’s now the burgeoning private space industry that is employing even more people with jobs that focus on the future.

Check out http://pillownaut.com/spacemap/spacemap.html and plan your space-nerd road trip today!

New Moon Mission: Chandrayaan-2 Payloads Selected

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Seven instruments will be aboard India’s second unmanned mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-2, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced today. The mission, which is a cooperative effort between ISRO and the Russian Federal Space Agency, will include an orbiter, a lander and a rover, which officials hope will launch in 2013. The instruments will study the Moon in a variety of wavelengths, and there will be five instruments on the orbiter and two on the rover. They include:

For the orbiter:

1. Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer (CLASS) and Solar X-ray monitor (XSM) for mapping major elements present on the lunar surface.

2. L and S band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), which will probe the first few tens of meters of the lunar surface for the presence of different constituents, including water ice. SAR is expected to provide further evidence confirming the presence of water ice below the permanently shadowed regions of the Moon.

3. Imaging IR Spectrometer (IIRS) will map the lunar surface over a wide wavelength range for the study of minerals, water molecules and hydroxyl present.

4. Neutral Mass Spectrometer (ChACE-2) to carry out a detailed study of the lunar exosphere.

5. Terrain Mapping Camera-2 (TMC-2)to create a three-dimensional map essential for studying the lunar mineralogy and geology.

For the rover:

1. Laser induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS).

2. Alpha Particle Induced X-ray Spectroscope (APIXS).

Both those instruments are expected to carry out elemental analysis of the lunar surface near the landing site.

ISRO didn’t rule out adding addition payloads later “if possible within the mission constraints,” they said in a statement.

The lander is being built by Russia, while the orbiter and rover are being built by ISRO.

Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft weighs about 2,650 kg at lift-off of which the orbiter’s weight is about 1,400 kg and lander about 1,250 kg. It will be launched onboard a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, in India.

Chandrayaan-1 was an extremely successful mission that lasted 10 –months until the orbiter experienced communications and navigation problems in August 2009, abruptly ending the mission. Data from the 11 instruments on Chandrayaan-1 are still being analyzed, but have already contributed to finding water and hydroxyl across the Moon’s surface and water ice in craters on the lunar poles.

Source: The Times of India

Japan Shoots for Robotic Moon Base by 2020

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These ARE the droids we’ve been looking for. The Japanese space agency, JAXA, has plans to build a base on the Moon by 2020. Not for humans, but for robots, and built by robots, too. A panel authorized by Japan’s prime minister has drawn up preliminary plans of how humanoid and rover robots will begin surveying the moon by 2015, and then begin construction of a base near the south pole of the moon. The robots and the base will run on solar power, with total costs about $2.2 billion USD, according to the panel chaired by Waseda University President Katsuhiko Shirai.

Moon base robot. Credit: JAXA

Some of the planned droids weigh about 300 kg (660 pounds) and move on tank-like treads. Reportedly, they will be able to operate within a 100 km (60 mile) radius of the base. They’ll be equipped with solar panels, seismographs to investigate the moon’s inner structure, high-def cameras, and arms to gather rock samples, which will be returned to Earth via a sample return rocket.

The exact location for the base will be chosen from high-resolution images returned by Japan’s Kaguya orbiter, which has provided stunning images of the Moon’s surface.

Previously, JAXA had set a goal of constructing a manned lunar base starting in about 2030, and apparently, the robotic base would be a precursor. That plan calls for astronauts to visit the Moon by around 2020 which is about the same timetable as the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is hoping to have a manned mission to the Moon. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has said they would like to have a manned lunar mission in 2030. NASA? Not sure yet. The Constellation program to return to the Moon has seemingly been axed, but it’s not going down without a fight from members of Congress and others. But surely, even if NASA decides an asteroid or Mars is their destination of choice, they would have to start by practicing on the Moon.

Let’s all work together on this and perhaps returning to the Moon will actually happen.

Source: NODE via PopSci

After Loss of Lunar Orbiter, India Looks to Mars Mission

India Moon Mission

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After giving up on re-establishing contact with the Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman G. Madhavan Nair announced the space agency hopes to launch its first mission to Mars sometime between 2013 and 2015. Nair said the termination of Chandrayaan-1, although sad, is not a setback and India will move ahead with its plans for the Chandrayaan-2 mission to land an unmanned rover on the moon’s surface to prospect for chemicals, and in four to six years launch a robotic mission to Mars.


“We have given a call for proposal to different scientific communities,” Nair told reporters. “Depending on the type of experiments they propose, we will be able to plan the mission. The mission is at conceptual stage and will be taken up after Chandrayaan-2.”

On the decision to quickly pull the plug on Chandrayaan-1, Nair said, “There was no possibility of retrieving it. (But) it was a great success. We could collect a large volume of data, including more than 70,000 images of the moon. In that sense, 95 percent of the objective was completed.”

Contact with Chandrayaan-1 may have been lost because its antenna rotated out of direct contact with Earth, ISRO officials said. Earlier this year, the spacecraft lost both its primary and back-up star sensors, which use the positions of stars to orient the spacecraft.

The loss of Chandrayaan-1 comes less than a week after the spacecraft’s orbit was adjusted to team up with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter for a Bi-static radar experiment. During the maneuver, Chandrayaan-1 fired its radar beam into Erlanger Crater on the moon’s north pole. Both spacecraft listened for echoes that might indicate the presence of water ice – a precious resource for future lunar explorers. The results of that experiment have not yet been released.

Chandrayaan-1 craft was designed to orbit the moon for two years, but lasted 315 days. It will take about 1,000 days until it crashes to the lunar surface and is being tracked by the U.S. and Russia, ISRO said.

The Chandrayaan I had 11 payloads, including a terrain-mapping camera designed to create a three-dimensional atlas of the moon. It is also carrying mapping instruments for the European Space Agency, radiation-measuring equipment for the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and two devices for NASA, including the radar instrument to assess mineral composition and look for ice deposits. India launched its first rocket in 1963 and first satellite in 1975. The country’s satellite program is one of the largest communication systems in the world.

Sources: New Scientist, Xinhuanet

Chandrayaan-1 Rescued from Failure

India Moon Mission

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The Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft, India’s moon orbiting satellite was almost lost earlier this year, Indian Space Research Organization revealed, as the star tracking system overheated and malfunctioned. The system helps determine and maintain the spacecraft’s orientation. Engineers were able to patch in the gyroscopes and another instrument to help maneuver the spacecraft, but they are not sure how long this jury-rigged system will work. At this point, determining the spacecraft’s future might be difficult, and differing statements from various officials reflect that.

“We are not sure how long we will be able to sustain it. The life of Chandrayaan-I designed for two years may be reduced,” said ISRO spokesman S. Satish.

ISRO chief Madhavan Nair said the star tracking system cannot be recovered, but he dismissed suggestions that the sensor’s failure might reduce the life span of the spacecraft.

“The life (of the spacecraft) is not dependent on this instrument. This instrument is used only for orientation of the spacecraft,” he said. “The sensor cannot be recovered at this stage and we hope that the remaining part of this mission will be completed.”
Chandrayaan-1's first picture of the moon.  Credit:  ISRO

Chandrayaan-1 launched in October 2008 and suffered from overheating shortly after it began operations in lunar orbit in November, but the ISRO was able to change the spacecraft’s orientation and cut down on the amount of time the instruments were used to compensate.

In May 2009, however, officials unexpectedly raised the orbit of the spacecraft. At that time officials said they had completed mission objectives from 100 km above the moon and raised the height of the spacecraft to 200 km to enable imaging lunar surface with a wider swath. But reports say that May is when the star tracker system malfunctioned, as well.

Nair said the star sensor is suspected to have failed because of “excessive radiation” from the Sun. He said gyroscopes are not susceptible for the kind of radiation that the sensor was subjected to. “So, we hope it will survive the remaining mission duration”.

He added more than 90 percent of the two-year mission’s objectives have already been achieved.

ISRO Scientists hope the Chandrayaan project will boost India’s capacity to build more efficient rockets and satellites, especially through miniaturization, and open research avenues for young Indian scientists. India plans to follow the Chandrayaan, which means “moon craft” in Sanskrit, by landing a rover on the moon in 2011.

Source: The Hindu