India’s Bargain Mars Spacecraft Cost Less Than Many Space Movies

India achieved a remarkable feat earlier this week — the nation became only one of a handful of countries to successfully send a probe to Mars. The $75 million mission has been hailed as an achievement by NASA and other space experts from around the world.

Just how remarkable is this bargain mission? As a tweet from travel writer Jon Tindale pointed out, MOM cost less than the 2000 Gary Sinise movie Mission To Mars. (Note that we came up with a different dollar figure below.)

Just for fun, we’ve compared MOM to several space movies below. All dollar figures are adjusted for inflation from budgets listed in the Internet Movie Database.

Avatar: $263 million ($237 million in 2009 dollars)

Wall-E: $199 million ($180 million in 2008 dollars)

The Fifth Element: $138 million ($93 million in 1997 dollars)

Mission to Mars: $124 million ($90 million in 2000 dollars)

Elysium: $117 million ($115 million in 2013 dollars)

Star Trek: The Motion Picture: $115 million ($35 million in 1979 dollars)

Gravity: $102 million ($100 million in 2013 dollars)

Apollo 13: $101.5 million ($62 million in 1995 dollars)

Dune (1984): $92 million ($40 million in 1984 dollars)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: $76 million ($19.4 million in 1977 dollars)

2001: A Space Odyssey: $72 million ($10.5 million in 1968 dollars)

Mars Orbiter Mission: $70 million (2014 dollars)

The Right Stuff: $65 million ($27 million in 1983 dollars)

Serenity: $49 million ($40 million in 2005 dollars)

Star Wars (1977): $43 million ($11 million in 1977 dollars)

Outland: $42 million ($16 million in 1981 dollars)

Alien: $36 million ($11 million in 1979 dollars)

War of the Worlds (1953): $18 million ($2 million in 1953 dollars)

Silent Running: $6.2 million ($1.1 million in 1972 dollars)

Moon: $5.5 million ($5 million in 2009 dollars)

Apollo 18: $5.3 million ($5 million in 2011 dollars)

India’s MOM Captures First Image of the Red Planet

India’s “history creating” maiden interplanetary voyager, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) has captured her historic first image of the Red Planet.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), India’s space agency which designed and developed the orbiter released the image today, Sept 25, just a day after MOM successfully arrived at Mars on Sept. 23/24.

Read my complete MOM meets Mars arrival story – here.

The image was taken by the probe’s Mars Colour Camera (MCC), tri color imager, from a height of 7300 kilometers with a spatial resolution of 376 meters and shows a heavily cratered region on the Red Planet.

Following MOM’s successful orbital insertion maneuver, India joined an elite club of only three other entities who have launched probes that successfully investigated Mars – following the Soviet Union, the United States, and the European Space Agency (ESA).

MOM is now circling Mars in a highly elliptical orbit whose nearest point to Mars (periapsis) is at 421.7 km and farthest point (apoapsis) at 76,993.6 km. The inclination of orbit with respect to the equatorial plane of Mars is 150 degrees, as intended, ISRO reports.

By way of comparison, here’s the first image taken by MOM of the Blue Planet, her Home World.

First ever image of Earth Taken by Mars Color Camera aboard India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft while orbiting Earth and before the Trans Mars Insertion firing on Dec. 1, 2013. Image is focused on the Indian subcontinent.  Credit: ISRO
First ever image of Earth Taken by Mars Color Camera aboard India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft while orbiting Earth and before the Trans Mars Insertion firing on Dec. 1, 2013. Image is focused on the Indian subcontinent. Credit: ISRO

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Who Needs a Deep Space Network? Two Martian Spacecraft Communicate Via Twitter

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft was greeted via Twitter after successfully entering orbit of the Red Planet. The Curiosity Rover, a Mars old-timer of two years, sent a welcoming tweet: “Namaste @MarsOrbiter. Congratulations to @ISRO and India’s first interplanetary mission upon achieving Mars orbit.”

The @MarsOrbiter replied: “Howdy @MarsCuriosity? Keep in touch. I’ll be around.”

We jest, of course, about using Twitter for space communications. The Deep Space Network provides critical two-way communications between spacecraft and Earth.

The DSN sends information that guides and controls the spacecraft for navigation, and it collects telemetry of the data — images and scientific information — sent back by the spacecraft. NASA is not the only space agency to benefit from the international network of communications facilities that make up the DSN, as spacecraft from around the world use DSN for communications. In fact, MOM is currently sending and receiving telemetry from the DSN, as well as ISRO’s tracking station in Bangalore.

DSN is the largest and most sensitive scientific telecommunications system in the world. It consists of three deep-space communications facilities placed approximately 120 degrees apart on the globe: at Goldstone, California; near Madrid, Spain; and near Canberra, Australia. This strategic placement permits constant observation of spacecraft as the Earth rotates.

MOM now joins seven spacecraft currently operating on Mars surface or in orbit – including the newly arrived MAVEN orbiter, three longtime Mars orbiters: Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Express (MEX), and two rovers on the surface, Curiosity and Opportunity.

History Created as India Dares Unknown and Achieves Near Impossible – MOM Successfully Arrives in Mars Orbit

Artists concept of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) successfully achieving Mars orbit on Sept. 23 EDT/Sept. 24 IST. Credit: ISRO
Story updated[/caption]

Space history was made today when India’s car sized Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) successfully fired its braking rockets and arrived in Mars orbit today (Sept. 23 EST/Sept. 24 IST) on the nation’s first attempt to explore the Red Planet. Indeed MOM is India’s maiden interplanetary voyager and “created history.”

India thereby joins an elite club of only three other entities who have launched probes that successfully investigated Mars – following the Soviet Union, the United States and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Wild applause erupted with beaming smiles from ear to ear at India’s Bangalore mission control center after signals confirming a successful full duration firing of the crafts engines for 24 minutes and 13 seconds for the crucial Mars Orbital Insertion (MOI) maneuver that placed MOM into orbit, were received precisely as planned at 10:30 p.m. EDT (Sept 23) or 8:00 IST (Sept. 24).

Traveling at the speed of light it took nearly 12.5 minutes for the good news signals to arrive on Earth from Mars across the vast expanse of some 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) of interplanetary space.

MOM’s Red Planet arrival was webcast live worldwide by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), India’s space agency which designed and developed the orbiter.

ISRO’s website also gave a play by play in real time, announcing the results of critical spacecraft actions along the arrival timeline just moments after they became known.

“India has successfully reached Mars!” declared Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who watched the events unfold from mission control at ISRO’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore.

“History has been created today. We have dared to reach out into the unknown and have achieved the near-impossible. I congratulate all ISRO scientists as well as all my fellow Indians on this historic occasion.”

Modi gave a stirring and passionate speech to the team, the nation and a global audience outlining the benefits and importance of India’s space program. He implored the team to strive for even greater space exploration challenges, sounding very much like US President John F. Kennedy over 50 years ago!

“We have gone beyond the boundaries of human enterprise and imagination,” Modi stated. “We have accurately navigated our spacecraft through a route known to very few. And we have done it from a distance so large that it took even a command signal from Earth to reach it more than it takes sunlight to reach us.”

The do-or-die MOI breaking maneuver slowed MOM’s velocity by 1099 m/s (2457 mph) vs. an expected 1098.7 m/s – using the combined thrust of the 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) main engine and eight smaller 22 newton liquid fueled engines.

The entire MOI maneuver took place fully autonomously under the spacecrafts preprogrammed sole control due to the long communications lag time and also during a partial communications blackout when the probe was traveling behind Mars and the signal was blocked.

MOM’s goal is to study Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and the Martian atmosphere with five indigenous scientific instruments. Among other goals it will sniff for methane as a potential marker for biological activity.

MOM’s success follows closely on the heels of NASA’s MAVEN orbiter which also successfully achieved orbit barely two days earlier on Sept. 21.

Modi noted that more than half of all missions to Mars have failed.

“We have prevailed. We have succeeded on our first attempt. We put together the spacecraft in record time, in a mere three years from first studying its feasibility,” Modi elaborated.

“These are accomplishments that will go down in history. Innovation by its very nature involves risk. It is a leap into the dark .. . and the unknown. Space is indeed the biggest unknown out there.”

“Through your brilliance and hard work [at ISRO] you have made a habit of accomplishing the impossible.”

“The success of our space program is a shining symbol of what we are capable of as a nation. Our space program is an example of achievement which inspires us all .. and future generations … to strive for excellence ourselves.”

“Space technology translates to space applications here on Earth … to improve the life of our citizens.”

“Let us set ourselves even more challenging goals and strive even harder to achieve them. Let us push our boundaries. And then push some more, and push some more!” said Modi jubilantly.

MOM now joins Earth’s newly fortified armada of seven spacecraft currently operating on Mars surface or in orbit – including MAVEN, Mars Odyssey (MO), Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter MRO), Mars Express (MEX), Curiosity and Opportunity.

“MOM and MAVEN will keep each other company in orbit,” said Modi.

Today, MOM concluded her over 10 month interplanetary voyage of some 442 million miles (712 million km) from Earth to the Red Planet.

“Congratulations to the MOM team on behalf of the entire MAVEN team! Here’s to exciting science from the two latest missions to join the Mars fleet!”, wrote Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN Principal Investigator, in a post on the ISRO MOM facebook page.

ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission - The plan of action for Mars Orbit Insertion on September 24. Credit ISRO
ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission – The plan of action for Mars Orbit Insertion on September 24. Credit ISRO

MOM was launched on Nov. 5, 2013 from India’s spaceport at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, atop the nations indigenous four stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

The flight path of the approximately $73 Million probe was being continuously monitored by the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) and NASA JPL’s Deep Space Network (DSN) to maintain its course.

“The events related to Mars Orbit Insertion progressed satisfactorily and the spacecraft performance was normal. The Spacecraft is now circling Mars in an orbit whose nearest point to Mars (periapsis) is at 421.7 km and farthest point (apoapsis) at 76,993.6 km. The inclination of orbit with respect to the equatorial plane of Mars is 150 degree, as intended. In this orbit, the spacecraft takes 72 hours 51 minutes 51 seconds to go round the Mars once,” according to an ISRO statement.

MOM is expected to investigate the Red Planet for at least six months.

Although MOM’s main objective is a demonstration of technological capabilities, she will also study the planet’s atmosphere and surface.

The probe is equipped with five indigenous instruments to conduct meaningful science – including a tri color imager (MCC) and a methane gas sniffer (MSM) 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.

Both MAVEN and MOM’s goal is to study the Martian atmosphere , unlock the mysteries of its current atmosphere and determine how, why and when the atmosphere and liquid water was lost – and how this transformed Mars climate into its cold, desiccated state of today.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Trans Mars Injection (TMI), carried out on Dec 01, 2013 at 00:49 hrs (IST) has moved the spacecraft in the Mars Transfer Trajectory (MTT). With TMI the Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended and the spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun. Credit: ISRO
Trans Mars Injection (TMI), carried out on Dec 01, 2013 at 00:49 hrs (IST) has moved the spacecraft in the Mars Transfer Trajectory (MTT). With TMI the Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended and the spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun. Credit: ISRO

India’s First Mars Mission MOM Meets Mars on Sept. 23/24 – Watch Arrival Live

Its D-Day for MOM! The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is India’s history making first mission to the Red Planet and she arrives today, Sept. 23/24 !

MOM’s goal is to study Mars’ surface features, morphology, mineralogy, and the Martian atmosphere with five indigenous scientific instruments. Among other goals it will sniff for methane.

Depending on your time zone, today’s historic arrival falls on either Sept. 23 (EST) or Sept. 24 (IST).

MOM’s entire future depends on conducting a successful and precise, do-or-die Mars Orbital Insertion (MOI) braking burn just hours from now.

The MOI engine firing is targeted for Sept. 23 at 9:47:32 p.m. EDT and Sept. 24 at 07:17:32 hrs IST.

And you can watch all the action live as it happens via a live webcast from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) website, India’s space agency which designed and developed MOM for about $69 Million.

ISRO’s live streaming webcast starts on the US East Coast today, Sept. 23, at 9:15 p.m. EDT and in India on Sept. 24 at 6:45 IST: http://www.isro.org/

Here’s another webcast link for MOM’s Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI) from ISTRAC, Bangalore: http://webcast.isro.gov.in/

The MOI burn involves firing the probes 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) and eight smaller 22 Newton liquid fueled engines for a duration of about 24 minutes to enter Mars’ orbit.

Confirmation of a successful start to the engine burn could be received back on Earth at about 10 p.m. EDT or 7:30 IST. Confirmation of a successful MOI conclusion could be received by about 10:30 p.m. EDT or 8:00 IST

On Monday, Sept 22, engineers at the Bangalore mission control center verified the performance and readiness of the LAM by conducting the final Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM-4) with a engine burst duration of 3.968 seconds.

“We had a perfect burn for four seconds as programmed. MOM will now go-ahead with the nominal plan for Mars Orbital Insertion,” said ISRO.

The Indian engineering team has only one chance to get it right, and the entire world is pulling for India. NASA, JPL, and the DSN have sent along extra special good luck wishes in the form of group photos below.

Good luck wishes for MOM from NASA and JPL.  Credit: NASA/ISRO
Good luck wishes for MOM from NASA and JPL. Credit: NASA/ISRO

Everyone is wishing for complete success for the probe which reaches Mars just two days after NASA’s MAVEN orbiter successfully achieved orbit on Sunday night, Sept. 21.

“We wish a successful MOI for MOM,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU/LASP) at MAVEN’s post MOI briefing on Monday, Sept. 22.

ISRO reports today that all systems are currently “GO.”

Watch this cool animation showing the interplanetary path of MOM and MAVEN from Earth to Mars sent to me be an appreciative reader – Sankaranarayanan K V:

If all goes well, MOM will join Earth’s newly fortified armada of six spacecraft operating on Mars surface or in orbit – MAVEN, Mars Odyssey (MO), Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Express (MEX), Curiosity, and Opportunity.

Today, MOM concludes her 10 month interplanetary voyage of some 442 million miles (712 million km) from Earth to the Red Planet.

Good luck MOM!

ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission - The plan of action for Mars Orbit Insertion on September 24. Credit ISRO
ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission – The plan of action for Mars Orbit Insertion on September 24. Credit ISRO

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

2 Days Out from the Red Planet, India’s MOM Probe Test Fires Main Engine for Mars Orbit Insertion

Two days out from her history making date with destiny, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) successfully completed a crucial test firing of the spacecraft’s main liquid engine to confirm its operational readiness for the critical Mars Orbital Insertion (MOI) engine firing on Wednesday morning Sept. 24 IST (Tuesday evening Sept. 23 EDT).

Engineers at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) which designed and developed MOM successfully fired the probes 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) earlier today, Sept. 22, 2014, for a duration of 3.968 seconds at 1430 hrs IST (Indian Standard Time), according to today’s announcement from ISRO.

“We had a perfect burn for four seconds as programmed. MOM will now go-ahead with the nominal plan for Mars Orbital Insertion,” said ISRO.

ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission - The plan of action for Mars Orbit Insertion on September 24. Credit ISRO
ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission – The plan of action for Mars Orbit Insertion on September 24. Credit ISRO

MOM counts as India’s first interplanetary voyager and the nation’s first manmade object to orbit the 4th rock from our Sun – if all goes well.

The LAM was last fired over nine months ago on December 01, 2013 to inject MOM into a ten month long interplanetary Trans Mars Trajectory.

Today’s operation verified that LAM is fully operational to perform the do-or-die MOI braking burn on Sept. 24 targeted for 07:17:32 hrs IST (Sept. 23, 9:47:32 p.m. EDT) that will place the probe into a highly elliptical 377 km x 80,000 km orbit around the Red Planet.

You can watch all the action live on ISRO’s website during the streaming webcast starting at 6:45 IST (9:15 p.m. EDT): http://www.isro.org/

The burn was also marks the spacecraft’s final Trajectory Correction Maneuver known as TCM-4 and changed its velocity by 2.18 meters/second.

“The trajectory has been corrected,” said ISRO.

The $69 Million probe is being continuously monitored by the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) and NASA JPL’s Deep Space Network (DSN) to maintain its course.

Trans Mars Injection (TMI), carried out on Dec 01, 2013 at 00:49 hrs (IST) has moved the spacecraft in the Mars Transfer Trajectory (MTT). With TMI the Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended and the spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun. Credit: ISRO
Trans Mars Injection (TMI), carried out on Dec 01, 2013 at 00:49 hrs (IST) has moved the spacecraft in the Mars Transfer Trajectory (MTT). With TMI the Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended and the spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun. Credit: ISRO

ISRO space engineers are taking care to precisely navigate MOM to keep it on course during its long heliocentric trajectory from Earth to Mars through a series of in flight Trajectory Correction Maneuvers (TCMs).

The last TCM was successfully performed on June 11 by firing the spacecraft’s 22 Newton thrusters for a duration of 16 seconds. TCM-1 was conducted on December 11, 2013 by firing the 22 Newton Thrusters for 40.5 seconds.

Engineers determined that a TCM planned for August was not needed.

On “D-Day” as ISRO calls it, the LAM and the eight smaller 22 Newton liquid fueled engines are scheduled to fire for a duration of about 24 minutes.

The MOI braking burn will be carried out fully autonomously since MOM will be eclipsed by Mars due to the Sun-Earth-Mars geometry about five minutes prior to initiation of the engine firing.

Round trip radio signals communicating with MOM now take some 21 minutes.

The 1,350 kilogram (2,980 pound) probe has been streaking through space for over ten months.

MOM follows hot on the heels of NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft which successfully achieved Red Planet orbit less than a day ago on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2014.

“We wish a successful MOI for MOM,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU/LASP) at MAVEN’s post MOI briefing earlier today.

MOM was launched on Nov. 5, 2013 from India’s spaceport at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, atop the nation’s indigenous four stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) which placed the probe into its initial Earth parking orbit.

Watch this cool animation showing the interplanetary path of MOM and MAVEN from Earth to Mars sent to me be an appreciative reader – Sankaranarayanan K V:

Although MOM’s main objective is a demonstration of technological capabilities, she will also study the planet’s atmosphere and surface.

The probe is equipped with five indigenous instruments to conduct meaningful science – including a tri-color imager (MCC) and a methane gas sniffer (MSM) 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.

Both MAVEN’s and MOM’s goal is to study the Martian atmosphere , unlock the mysteries of its current atmosphere and determine how, why and when the atmosphere and liquid water was lost – and how this transformed Mars’ climate into its cold, desiccated state of today.

If all goes well, India will join an elite club of only 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).

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing MOM, MAVEN, Rosetta, Opportunity, Curiosity, Mars rover and more Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Blastoff of the Indian developed Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on Nov. 5, 2013 from the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. Credit: ISRO
Blastoff of the Indian developed Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on Nov. 5, 2013 from the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. Credit: ISRO

25 Days from Mars – India’s MOM is in Good Health!

Now less than 25 days from her history making rendezvous with the Red Planet and the critical Mars Orbital Insertion (MOI) engine firing, India’s MOM is in good health!

The Mars Orbiter Mission, or MOM, counts as India’s first interplanetary voyager and the nation’s first manmade object to orbit the 4th rock from our Sun on September 24, 2014 – if all goes well.

MOM was designed and developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

“MOM and its payloads are in good health,” reports ISRO in a new update.

As of today, Aug. 31, MOM has traveled a total distance of over 622 million km in its heliocentric arc towards Mars, says ISRO. It is currently 199 million km away from Earth.

25 Days to Mars Orbit Insertion engine firing for ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on Sept. 24, 2014. Prelaunch images show MOM undergoing solar panel illumination tests during 2013 prior to launch.  Credit: ISRO
25 Days to Mars Orbit Insertion engine firing for ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on Sept. 24, 2014. Prelaunch images show MOM undergoing solar panel illumination tests during 2013 prior to launch. Credit: ISRO

Altogether the probe has completed over 90% of the journey to Mars.

In the past week alone it has traveled over 20 million km and is over 10 million km further from Earth. It is now less than 9 million kilometers away from Mars

Round trip radio signals communicating with MOM now take some 21 minutes.

The 1,350 kilogram (2,980 pound) probe has been streaking through space for nearly ten months.

To remain healthy and accomplish her science mission ahead, the spacecraft must fire the 440 Newton liquid fueled main engine to brake into orbit around the Red Planet on September 24, 2014 – where she will study the atmosphere and sniff for signals of methane.

The do or die MOI burn on September 24, 2014 places MOM into an 377 km x 80,000 km elliptical orbit around Mars.

Trans Mars Injection (TMI), carried out on Dec 01, 2013 at 00:49 hrs (IST) has moved the spacecraft in the Mars Transfer Trajectory (MTT). With TMI the Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended and the spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun. Credit: ISRO
Trans Mars Injection (TMI), carried out on Dec 01, 2013 at 00:49 hrs (IST) moved the spacecraft into the Mars Transfer Trajectory (MTT). With TMI the Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended and the spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun. Credit: ISRO

MOM was launched on Nov. 5, 2013 from India’s spaceport at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, atop the nations indigenous four stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) which placed the probe into its initial Earth parking orbit.

MOM is streaking to Mars along with NASA’s MAVEN orbiter, which arrives a few days earlier on September 21, 2014.

Although MOM’s main objective is a demonstration of technological capabilities, she will also study the planet’s atmosphere and surface.

The probe is equipped with five indigenous instruments to conduct meaningful science – including a tri color imager (MCC) and a methane gas sniffer (MSM) 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.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing MOM, MAVEN, Rosetta, Opportunity, Curiosity, Mars rover and more Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Clouds on the ground !  The sky seems inverted for a moment ! Blastoff of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on Nov. 5, 2013 from the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. Credit: ISRO
Clouds on the ground ! The sky seems inverted for a moment ! Blastoff of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on Nov. 5, 2013 from the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. Credit: ISRO

India’s Maiden Mars Mission One Month out from Red Planet Arrival

India’s maiden foray to Mars is now just one month out from the Red Planet and closing in fast on the final stages of the history making rendezvous culminating on September 24, 2014.

As of Aug. 22, 2014, the Mars Orbiter Mission, or MOM, was just 9 million kilometers away from Mars and the crucial Mars Orbital Insertion (MOI) engine firing that places India’s first interplanetary voyager into orbit around the 4th planet from the Sun.

MOM was designed and developed by the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) at a cost of $69 Million and marks India’s maiden foray into interplanetary flight.

So far it has traveled a total distance of 602 million km in its heliocentric arc towards Mars, says ISRO. It is currently 189 million km away from Earth. Round trip radio signals communicating with MOM take 20 minutes and 47 seconds.

After streaking through space for some ten and a half months, the 1,350 kilogram (2,980 pound) MOM probe will fire its 440 Newton liquid fueled main engine to brake into orbit around the Red Planet on September 24, 2014 – where she will study the atmosphere and sniff for signals of methane.

The do or die MOI burn on September 24 places MOM into an 377 km x 80,000 km elliptical orbit around Mars.

ISRO space engineers are taking care to precisely navigate MOM to keep it on course during its long heliocentric trajectory from Earth to Mars through a series of in flight Trajectory Correction Maneuvers (TMSs).

The last TCM was successfully performed on June 11 by firing the spacecraft’s 22 Newton thrusters for a duration of 16 seconds. TCM-1 was conducted on December 11, 2013 by firing the 22 Newton Thrusters for 40.5 seconds.

Engineers determined that a TCM planned for August was not needed.

The final TCM firing is planned in September 2014.

MOM’s trajectory to Mars. Credit: ISRO
MOM’s trajectory to Mars. Credit: ISRO

Engineers also completed the checkout of the medium gain antenna in August, “which will be used to communicate with Earth during the critical MOI” maneuver, ISRO reported.

The probe is being continuously monitored by the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) and NASA JPL’s Deep Space Network (DSN) to maintain it on course.

Blastoff of the Indian developed Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on Nov. 5, 2013 from the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. Credit: ISRO
Blastoff of the Indian developed Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on Nov. 5, 2013 from the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. Credit: ISRO

MOM was launched on Nov. 5, 2013 from India’s spaceport at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, atop the nations indigenous four stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) which placed the probe into its initial Earth parking orbit.

Six subsequent orbit raising maneuvers raised its orbit and culminated with a liquid fueled main engine firing on Dec. 1, 2013. The Trans Mars Injection(TMI) maneuver that successfully placed MOM on its heliocentric trajectory to the Red Planet.

First ever image of Earth Taken by Mars Color Camera aboard India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft while orbiting Earth and before the Trans Mars Insertion firing on Dec. 1, 2013. Image is focused on the Indian subcontinent.  Credit: ISRO
First ever image of Earth Taken by Mars Color Camera aboard India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft while orbiting Earth and before the Trans Mars Insertion firing on Dec. 1, 2013. Image is focused on the Indian subcontinent. Credit: ISRO

MOM is streaking to Mars along with NASA’s MAVEN orbiter, which arrives at Mars about two days earlier.

MOM and MAVEN will join Earth’s fleet of 3 current orbiters from NASA and ESA as well as NASA’s pair of sister surface rovers Curiosity and Opportunity.

If all goes well, India will join an elite club of only 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).

MOM’s main objective is a demonstration of technological capabilities and it will also study the planet’s atmosphere and surface.

The probe is equipped with five indigenous instruments to conduct meaningful science – 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.

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) marked 100 days out from Mars on June 16, 2014 and the Mars Orbit Insertion engine firing when it arrives at the Red Planet on September 24, 2014 after its 10 month interplanetary journey.  Credit ISRO
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) marked 100 days out from Mars on June 16, 2014 and the Mars Orbit Insertion engine firing when it arrives at the Red Planet on September 24, 2014 after its 10 month interplanetary journey. Credit ISRO

ISRO is also working to determine if MOM can gather scientific measurements of
Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring during an extremely close flyby with the Red Planet on Oct. 19, 2014.

MAVEN and NASA’s other Mars probes will study the comet.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing MOM, MAVEN, Opportunity, Curiosity, Mars rover and more planetary and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

MOM's first Trajectory Correction Manoeuver in Baiju Raj's imagination.
MOM’s first Trajectory Correction Manoeuver in Baiju Raj’s imagination.

100 Days of MOM – India’s 1st Mars Mission Streaking to Red Planet Rendezvous

India’s maiden Mars explorer, the Mars Orbiter Mission or MOM, celebrated 100 days speeding through space this past week, racing outwards on its historic journey to the Red Planet.

After streaking through space for some ten and a half months, the 1,350 kilogram (2,980 pound) MOM probe will rendezvous with the Red Planet on September 24, 2014 – where she will study the atmosphere and sniff for signals of methane.

Feb. 12, 2014 marked ‘100 Days of MOM’ since the picture perfect blast off on Nov. 5, 2013 from India’s spaceport at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, atop the nations indigenous Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) which placed the probe into its initial Earth parking orbit.

First ever image of Earth Taken by Mars Color Camera aboard India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft while orbiting Earth and before the Trans Mars Insertion firing on Dec. 1, 2013. Image is focused on the Indian subcontinent.  Credit: ISRO
First ever image of Earth Taken by Mars Color Camera aboard India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft while orbiting Earth and before the Trans Mars Insertion firing on Dec. 1, 2013. Image is focused on the Indian subcontinent. Credit: ISRO

A series of six subsequent orbit raising maneuvers ultimately culminated with the liquid fueled main engine firing on Dec. 1, 2013 for the Trans Mars Injection(TMI) maneuver that successfully placed MOM on a heliocentric elliptical trajectory to the Red Planet.

The TMI, affectionately dubbed ‘The mother of all slingshots’ finally provided the craft with sufficient thrust to achieve escape velocity and blast free of the Earth’s sphere of influence forever and begin her nearly yearlong momentous voyage to Mars.

The first of four in flight Trajectory Correction Maneuvers, TCM-1, was conducted by firing the 22 Newton Thrusters for a duration of 40.5 seconds on December 11, 2013. A trio of additional TCM firings are planned around April 2014, August 2014 and September 2014.

Trans Mars Injection (TMI), carried out on Dec 01, 2013 at 00:49 hrs (IST) has moved the spacecraft in the Mars Transfer Trajectory (MTT). With TMI the Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended and the spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun. Credit: ISRO
Trans Mars Injection (TMI), carried out on Dec 01, 2013 at 00:49 hrs (IST) has moved the spacecraft in the Mars Transfer Trajectory (MTT). With TMI the Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended and the spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun. Credit: ISRO

MOM was designed and developed by the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) at a cost of $69 Million and marks India’s inaugural foray into interplanetary flight.

During the first 100 days, the probe has traveled about 190 million kilometers and has a little less than 500 million kilometers and 205 days to go during her journey of some 680 million kilometers (400 million miles) overall.

A health check on February 6, 2014 confirmed that the 15 kg (33 lb) science payload comprising five Indian built instruments was turned “ON” and is operating well.

MOM is currently some 16 million km distant from Earth and one way radio signals take approximately 55 seconds.

“The round trip time is almost 2 minutes for a communication signal to go to MOM and come back, about the same time mom takes to make noodles!” ISRO noted humorously in a Facebook mission posting.

“Keep going MOM!”

MOM's first Trajectory Correction Manoeuver in Baiju Raj's imagination.
MOM’s first Trajectory Correction Manoeuver in Baiju Raj’s imagination.

Following the ten month cruise through space the orbital insertion engine will fire for the do or die burn on September 24, 2014 placing MOM into an 377 km x 80,000 km elliptical orbit around Mars.

MOM is not alone in the frigid vacuum of space. She is joined by NASA’s MAVEN orbiter in pursuit of Mars.

MOM will reach Mars vicinity just two days after the arrival MAVEN on Sept. 22, 2014.

To date MAVEN has flown over 137 million miles (221 million km) of its total 442 million miles (712 million km) path to Mars.

If all continues to goes well, India will join an elite club of only 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).

Both MAVEN and MOM’s goal is to study the Martian atmosphere, unlock the mysteries of its current atmosphere and determine how, why and when the atmosphere and liquid water was lost – and how this transformed Mars climate into its cold, desiccated state of today.

Together, MOM and MAVEN will fortify Earth’s invasion fleet at Mars. They join 3 current orbiters from NASA and ESA as well as NASA’s pair of sister surface roversCuriosity and Opportunity.

Although they were developed independently and have different suites of scientific instruments, the MAVEN and MOM science teams will “work together” to unlock the secrets of Mars atmosphere and climate history, 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.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing MOM, Opportunity, Curiosity, Chang’e-3, LADEE, MAVEN, Mars rover and more planetary and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

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India’s First Mars Probe ‘MOM’ Blasts Free of Earth Joining MAVEN in Race to Red Planet

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – India’s first ever Mars probe ‘MOM’ successfully fired its main engine today (Dec. 1), blasting the craft free of the Earth’s sphere of influence forever to begin her nearly yearlong momentous voyage to the Red Planet.

Indian space engineers initiated the 440 Newton liquid fueled engine firing precisely as planned at 00:49 hrs (IST) on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013 during a critical nail-biting burn lasting some 22 minutes.

The Trans Mars Insertion (TMI) firing propelled India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) away from Earth forever and placed the spacecraft on course for a rendezvous with the Red Planet on September 24, 2014 – where it will study the atmosphere and sniff for signals of methane.

Sunday’s Mars insertion burn imparted the vehicle with an incremental velocity of 647.96 meters per second (m/sec) consuming 198 kg of fuel.

Trans Mars Injection (TMI), carried out on Dec 01, 2013 at 00:49 hrs (IST) has moved the spacecraft in the Mars Transfer Trajectory (MTT). With TMI the Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended and the spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun. Credit: ISRO
Trans Mars Injection (TMI), carried out on Dec 01, 2013 at 00:49 hrs (IST) has moved the spacecraft in the Mars Transfer Trajectory (MTT). With TMI the Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended and the spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun. Credit: ISRO

The maneuver dubbed ‘The mother of all slingshots’, enabled MOM to finally achieve escape velocity and catapulted the 1,350 kilogram (2,980 pound) spacecraft on an historic flight streaking towards Mars.

And in a rare but rather delightful coincidence, MOM is not alone on her remarkable Martian sojourn. Following the triumphant engine burn, she now joins NASA’s MAVEN orbiter in a gallant marathon race to the Red Planet.

MOM was designed and developed by the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) at a cost of $69 Million and marks India’s inaugural foray into interplanetary flight.

“The Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended,” with this maneuver said ISRO.

MOM is healthy and all systems are functioning normally.

While MOM was cycling Earth, ISRO scientists and engineers activated and tested the probes systems and science payloads.

They also turned the crafts color camera homewards to capture the “First ever image of Earth Taken by Mars Color Camera,” according to ISRO.

First ever image of Earth Taken by Mars Color Camera aboard India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft currently orbiting Earth prior to upcoming Trans Mars Insertion. Image is focused on the Indian subcontinent.  Credit: ISRO
First ever image of Earth Taken by Mars Color Camera aboard India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft currently orbiting Earth prior to upcoming Trans Mars Insertion. Image is focused on the Indian subcontinent. Credit: ISRO

MOM is nicknamed ‘Mangalyaan’ – which in Hindi means ‘Mars craft.’

MOM’s journey bagen with a picture perfect Nov. 5 liftoff atop India’s highly reliable four stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C25 from ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota.

The PSLV booster precisely injected MOM into an initial elliptical Earth parking orbit of 247 x 23556 kilometers with an inclination of 19.2 degrees.

PSLV does not have sufficient thrust to send MOM streaking directly to the Red Planet.

Therefore since the flawless launch, the engine has been fired 6 times on November 7, 8, 9, 11, and 16 plus one supplementary maneuver to gradually raise the spacecrafts apogee from 23556 km to 192,874 km.

The most recent orbit raising maneuver occurred on Nov 16, 2013 with a burn time of 243.5 seconds and increased the apogee from 118,642 km to 192,874 km.

Liquid fueled engine fires and successfully propels MOM into Mars Transfer Trajectory on Dec. 1, 2013 and India into interplanetary space !  Credit: ISRO
Liquid fueled engine fires and successfully propels MOM into Mars Transfer Trajectory on Dec. 1, 2013 and India into interplanetary space ! Credit: ISRO

Today’s burn was the final one around Earth and absolutely crucial for setting her on course for Mars.

MOM was the first of two missions dispatched to Mars by Earthlings this November.

Half a world away, NASA’s MAVEN orbiter blasted off on Nov. 18 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida atop an Atlas V booster on a direct path to the Red Planet.

The MOM spacecraft is now on traveling on a heliocentric elliptical trajectory to begin a 300 day long interplanetary voyage of more than 700 Million kilometers (400 Million miles) to the Red Planet.

Along the path to Mars, ISRO plans to conduct a series of Trajectory Correction Maneuvers (TCMs) using MOM’s Attitude and Orbit Control System (AOCS) thrusters to precisely navigate the probe to the point required to achieve orbit around the Red Planet

Following the ten month cruise through space the orbital insertion engine will fire for a do or die burn on September 24, 2014 placing MOM into an 377 km x 80,000 km elliptical orbit around Mars.

MOM will reach Mars vicinity just two days after MAVEN’s arrival on Sept. 22, 2014.

If all continues to goes well, India will join an elite club of only 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).

Both MAVEN and MOM’s goal is to study the Martian atmosphere, unlock the mysteries of its current atmosphere and determine how, why and when the atmosphere and liquid water was lost – and how this transformed Mars climate into its cold, desiccated state of today.

Although MOM’s main objective is a demonstration of technological capabilities, the probe is equipped with five indigenous instruments to conduct meaningful science – 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.

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 ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.

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India’s MOM – ‘Mangalyaan’ mission is expected to continue gathering measurements at the Red Planet for at least six months and hopefully much longer.

MAVEN could operate for a decade or longer and is also crucial for relaying images and data collected by NASA’s current and upcoming surface rovers and landers.

Although they were developed independently and have different suites of scientific instruments, the MAVEN and MOM science teams will “work together” to unlock the secrets of Mars atmosphere and climate history, 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.

Stay tuned here for continuing MOM and MAVEN news and Ken’s MAVEN and SpaceX Falcon 9 launch reports from on site at the Kennedy Space Center press center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Ken Kremer