India’s Historic 1st Mission to Mars Celebrates 1 Year in Orbit at Red Planet

MOM celebrates 1 Year at Mars
Olympus Mons, Tharsis Bulge trio of volcanoes and Valles Marineris from ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission. Note the clouds and south polar ice cap. Credit: ISRO[/caption]

India’s historic first mission to Mars is now celebrating one year orbiting the Red Planet and may continue working for years to come. During year one the spacecraft was highly productive, achieving its goals of taking hordes of breathtaking images and gathering scientific measurements to study Mars atmosphere, surface environments, morphology, and mineralogy.

The Mars Orbiter Mission, or MOM, is India’s first deep space voyager to explore beyond the confines of her home planets influence and successfully arrived at the Red Planet after the “history creating” orbital insertion maneuver on Sept. 23/24, 2014 following a ten month interplanetary journey from Earth.

The MOM orbiter was designed and developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), India’s space agency, which is the equivalent of NASA.

“Mars Orbiter spacecraft marks one year of its life around the Red Planet today [Sept. 24, IST],” said ISRO. It was primarily designed as a technology demonstrator but is also outfitted with significant science instruments.

Shri A S Kiran Kumar, Chairman ISRO (centre) releasing the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) Mars Atlas with Dr. Y V N Krishnamoorthy, Scientific Secretary ISRO (left); Dr. Annadurai M, Director ISRO Satellite Centre, Shri Tapan Misra, Director Space Application Centre ISRO, Shri Deviprasad Karnik, Director Public Relations Unit ISRO. Credit: ISRO
Shri A S Kiran Kumar, Chairman ISRO (centre) releasing the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) Mars Atlas with Dr. Y V N Krishnamoorthy, Scientific Secretary ISRO (left); Dr. Annadurai M, Director ISRO Satellite Centre, Shri Tapan Misra, Director Space Application Centre ISRO, Shri Deviprasad Karnik, Director Public Relations Unit ISRO. Credit: ISRO

The probe is equipped with a 15 kg (33 lb) suite of five indigenous instruments to conduct meaningful science – including the tri color Mars Color Camera 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.

“After successfully completing one year of the mission life around Mars, now a large data set has been acquired by all five payloads of MOM,” ISRO stated.

To mark the one year anniversary ISRO released a new 120 page “Mars Atlas” of imagery and results, which can be downloaded from the ISRO website.

“The images from MCC have provided unique information about Mars at varying spatial resolutions. It has obtained Mars Global data showing clouds, dust in atmosphere and surface albedo variations, when acquired from apoapsis at around 72000 km.”

“On the other hand high resolution images acquired from periapsis show details of various morphological features on the surface of Mars. Some of these images have been showcased in this atlas. The images have been categorized depending upon the Martian surface and atmospheric processes.”

This view over the Ophir Chasma canyon on the Martian surface was taken by the Mars Colour Camera aboard India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM).  Ophir Chasma is a canyon in the Coprates quadrangle located at 4° south latitude and 72.5° west longitude. It is  part of the Valles Marineris canyon system.  Credit: ISRO
This view over the Ophir Chasma canyon on the Martian surface was taken by the Mars Colour Camera aboard India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Ophir Chasma is a canyon in the Coprates quadrangle located at 4° south latitude and 72.5° west longitude. It is part of the Valles Marineris canyon system. Credit: ISRO

MOM was built in record time and for a budget of $73 million.

“The MOM spacecraft was designed, built and launched in record period of less than two years,” ISRO explained. “MOM carried five science instruments collecting data on surface geology, morphology, atmospheric processes, surface temperature and atmospheric escape process.”

Valles Marineris from India’s Mars Mission.   Credit: ISRO
Valles Marineris from India’s Mars Mission. Credit: ISRO

MOM’s Martian arrival was webcast worldwide with an elaborate ceremony that included India’s prime minister who beamed with pride in the team and the nation at that time.

“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, on Sept. 24, 2014.

“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.”

MOM swoops around the Red Planet in a highly elliptical orbit whose nearest point to Mars (periapsis) is about 421.7 km and farthest point (apoapsis) is about 76,993.6 km, according to ISRO

ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission captures spectacular portrait of the Red Planet and swirling dust storms with the on-board Mars Color Camera from an altitude of 74500 km on Sept. 28, 2014.  Credit: ISRO
ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission captures spectacular portrait of the Red Planet and swirling dust storms with the on-board Mars Color Camera from an altitude of 74500 km on Sept. 28, 2014. Credit: ISRO

Upon MOM’s arrival, India became the newest member of an elite club of only four entities who have launched probes that successfully investigated Mars – following the Soviet Union, the United States and the European Space Agency (ESA).

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.

ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission captures the limb of Mars with the Mars Color Camera from an altitude of 8449 km soon after achieving orbit on Sept. 23/24, 2014. . Credit: ISRO
ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission captures the limb of Mars with the Mars Color Camera from an altitude of 8449 km soon after achieving orbit on Sept. 23/24, 2014. . Credit: ISRO

The Indian probe arrived just two days after NASA’s MAVEN Mars orbiter, the first mission specifically targeted to study Mars tenuous upper atmosphere and the escape rates of atmospheric constituents.

The $73 million MOM mission was initially expected to last at least six months. In March 2015, ISRO extended the mission duration for another six months since its healthy, the five science instruments were operating fine and it had sufficient fuel reserves.

Indeed MOM has enough fuel to continue gather data and images for years to come if the instruments and spacecraft continue to function nominally.

“The Mars Orbiter Mission still has some 45 kg of fuel left which could, in theory, keep the mission going for at least 15 years,” ISRO told The Hindu.

“One cannot get a better bang for the buck! According to ISRO, for normal housekeeping operations and orbit maintenance only about two kg of fuel is necessary per year.”

Including MOM, Earth’s invasion fleet at the Red Planet numbers a total of seven spacecraft comprising five orbiters from NASA, ESA and ISRO as well as the sister pair of mobile surface rovers from NASA – Curiosity and Opportunity.

Spectacular 3D view of Arsia Mons, a huge volcano on Mars, taken by camera on India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Credit: ISRO
Spectacular 3D view of Arsia Mons, a huge volcano on Mars, taken by camera on India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Credit: ISRO

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

Ken Kremer

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

Dazzling Gallery From India’s MOM Mars Orbiter Camera

Spectacular 3D view of Arsia Mons, a huge volcano on Mars, taken by camera on India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Credit: ISRO
Story updated with more details and imagery[/caption]

India’s first ever robotic explorer to the Red Planet, the Mars Orbiter Mission, more affectionately known as MOM, has captured an absolutely dazzling array of images of the fourth rock from the Sun.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), India’s space agency, has recently published a beautiful gallery of images featuring a variety of picturesque Martian canyons, volcanoes, craters, moons and more.

We’ve gathered a collection here of MOM’s newest imagery snapped by the probes Mars Color Camera (MCC) for the enjoyment of Martian fans worldwide.

The spectacular 3D view of the Arsia Mons volcano, shown above, was “created by draping the MCC image on topography of the region derived from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA), one of five instruments on board NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft.

The Arsia Mons image was taken from Mars orbit on 1 April 2015 at a spatial resolution of 556 meters from an altitude of 10707 km. Volcanic deposits can be seen located at the flanks of the Mons, according to ISRO.

The view of Pital crater below was released in late May and taken on 23 April 2015. Pital is a 40 km wide impact crater located in the Ophir Planum region of Mars and the image shows a chain of small impact craters. It is located in the eastern part of Valles Marineris region, says an ISRO description. MCC took the image from an altitude of 808 km.

Pital crater is an impact crater located in Ophir Planum region of Mars, which is located in the eastern part of Valles Marineris region. This  image is taken by Mars Color Camera (MCC) on 23-04-2015 at a spatial resolution of  ~42 m from an altitude of 808 km. Credit: ISRO
Pital crater is an impact crater located in Ophir Planum region of Mars, which is located in the eastern part of Valles Marineris region. This image is taken by Mars Color Camera (MCC) on 23-04-2015 at a spatial resolution of ~42 m from an altitude of 808 km. Credit: ISRO

It is an odd shaped crater, neither circular nor elliptical in shape, possibly due to “regional fracture in the W-E trending fracture zone.”

A trio of images, including one in stunning 3D, shows various portions of Valles Marineris, the largest known canyon in the Solar System.

Three dimensional view of Valles Marineris center portion from India’s MOM Mars Mission.   Credit: ISRO
Three dimensional view of Valles Marineris center portion from India’s MOM Mars Mission. Credit: ISRO

Valles Marineris stretches over 4,000 km (2,500 mi) across the Red Planet , is as much as 600 km wide and measures as much as 7 kilometers (4 mi) deep.

Valles Marineris from India’s Mars Mission.   Credit: ISRO
Valles Marineris from India’s Mars Mission. Credit: ISRO

For context here’s a previously taken global image of the red planet from MOM showing Valles Marinaris and Arsia Mons, which belongs to the Tharsis Bulge trio of shield volcanoes. They are both near the Martian equator.

Olympus Mons, Tharsis Bulge trio of volcanoes and Valles Marineris from ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission. Note the clouds and south polar ice cap.   Credit: ISRO
Olympus Mons, Tharsis Bulge trio of volcanoes and Valles Marineris from ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission. Note the clouds and south polar ice cap. Credit: ISRO

Valles Marineris is often called the “Grand Canyon of Mars.” It spans about as wide as the entire United States.

A gorgeous view of Phobos, the largest of Mars’ two tiny moons, silhouetted against the surface is shown below.

Phobos, one of the two natural satellites of Mars silhouetted against the Martian surface.  Credit: ISRO
Phobos, one of the two natural satellites of Mars silhouetted against the Martian surface. Credit: ISRO

MOM’s goal is to study Mars atmosphere, surface environments, morphology, and mineralogy with a 15 kg (33 lb) suite of five indigenously built science instruments. It is also sniffing for methane, a potential marker for biological activity.

MOM is India’s first deep space voyager to explore beyond the confines of her home planets influence and successfully arrived at the Red Planet after the “history creating” orbital insertion maneuver on Sept. 23/24, 2014 following a ten month journey from Earth.
MOM swoops around Mars in a highly elliptical orbit whose nearest point to the planet (periapsis) is at about 421 km and farthest point (apoapsis) at about 76,000 km, according to ISRO.

It takes MOM about 3.2 Earth days or 72 hours to orbit the Red Planet.

Higher resolution view of a portion of Valles Marineris canyon from India’s MOM Mars Mission.   Credit: ISRO
Higher resolution view of a portion of Valles Marineris canyon from India’s MOM Mars Mission. 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.

The $73 million MOM mission was expected to last at least six months. In March, ISRO extended the mission duration for another six months since its healthy, the five science instruments are operating fine and it has sufficient fuel reserves.

And with a communications blackout between Mars and Earth imminent as a result of natures solar conjunction, it’s the perfect time to catch up on all things Martian.

Solar conjunctions occur periodically between Mars and Earth about every 26 months, when the two planets line up basically in a straight line geometry with the sun in between as the two planets travel in their sun-centered orbits.

Since Mars will be located behind the Sun for most of June, communications with all the Terran spacecraft at the planet is diminished to nonexistent.

“MOM faces a communication outage during June 8-25,” according to The Hindu.

Normal science operations resume thereafter.

“Fuel on the spacecraft is not an issue,” ISRO Satellite Centre Director M. Annadurai told The Hindu.

Image of Tyrrhenus Mons in Hesperia Planum region taken by Mars Color Camera (MCC) on 25-02-2015 at a spatial resolution of 166m from an altitude of 3192km.  Tyrrhenus Mons is an ancient martian volcano and image shows its timeworn gullies and wind streaks.  Credit: ISRO
Image of Tyrrhenus Mons in Hesperia Planum region taken by Mars Color Camera (MCC) on 25-02-2015 at a spatial resolution of 166m from an altitude of 3192km. Tyrrhenus Mons is an ancient martian volcano and image shows its timeworn gullies and wind streaks. Credit: ISRO

Including MOM, Earth’s invasion fleet at the Red Planet numbers a total of seven spacecraft comprising five orbiters from NASA, ESA and ISRO as well as the sister pair of mobile surface rovers from NASA – Curiosity and Opportunity.

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

Ken Kremer

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

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

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) Requires Extra Thruster Firing after Premature Engine Shutdown

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) probe suffered a surprise hiccup overnight (Nov. 11 IST) when the main engine shut down prematurely and left the country’s first ever mission to the Red Planet flying in a significantly lower than planned interim elliptical orbit around Earth – following what was to be her 4th orbit raising burn since last week’s flawless launch.

MOM is in normal health,” at this time according to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) – which has now scheduled a supplementary main engine firing for early Tuesday (Nov. 12) to boost the crafts orbit the missing 20,000 km required.

Monday’s engine firing only raised MOM’s apogee (farthest point to Earth) from 71,623 km to 78,276 km compared to the originally planned apogee of about 100,000 [1 lakh] km), said ISRO in a press release.

This is the first serious problem to strike MOM in space. And it seemed clear to me something might be amiss when ISRO failed to quickly announce a successful completion of the 4th firing as had been the pattern for the initial three burns.

Trajectory graphic showing new supplemental 5th Midnight Maneuver thruster firing of ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission Spacecraft planned for Nov. 12 (IST) following the premature main engine shutdown during 4th orbit raising engine burn on Nov. 11. Credit: ISRO
Trajectory graphic showing new supplemental 5th Midnight Maneuver thruster firing of ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission Spacecraft planned for Nov. 12 (IST) following the premature main engine shutdown during 4th orbit raising engine burn on Nov. 11. Credit: ISRO

The premature shutdown of the liquid fueled 440 Newton main engine “imparted an incremental velocity of 35 metres/second as against 130 metres/second originally planned,” ISRO stated.

That’s barely a quarter of what was hoped for.

“A supplementary orbit-raising operation is planned tomorrow (November 12, 2013) at 0500 hrs IST to raise the apogee to nearly 1 lakh [100,000] km.”

A series of six absolutely essential firings of the 440 Newton main engine – dubbed “midnight maneuvers” – had been originally scheduled by Indian space engineers.

The purpose of the “midnight maneuvers” is to achieve Earth escape velocity by gradually raising MOM’s apogee over several weeks, and set her on a trans Mars trajectory to the Red Planet, following the spectacular blastoff on Nov. 5 from India’s spaceport.

Graphic showing trajectory that had been planned for the Fourth Midnight Maneuver of ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission Spacecraft on Nov. 11 until early shutdown of the 440N liquid fueled main engine.  Credit: ISRO
Graphic showing trajectory that had been planned for the Fourth Midnight Maneuver of ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission Spacecraft on Nov. 11 until early shutdown of the 440N liquid fueled main engine. Credit: ISRO

MOM was due to depart Earth’s orbit on Dec. 1 after accomplishing the 6th of the originally scheduled thruster firings – and begin a 10 month long interplanetary cruise to Mars.

MOM’s picture perfect Nov. 5 liftoff atop India’s highly reliable four stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C25 from the ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota, precisely injected the spacecraft into an initial elliptical Earth parking orbit of 247 x 23556 kilometers with an inclination of 19.2 degrees.

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd thruster firings were spot on and incrementally raised MOM’s apogee from 23556 km to 28814 km, 40186 km and 71,623 km respectively.

The next firing had been slated for Nov. 16.

Here’s how ISRO described the source of the main engine shutdown:

“During the fourth orbit-raising operations held today (November 11, 2013), the redundancies built-in for the propulsion system were exercised, namely, (a) energising the primary and redundant coils of the solenoid flow control valve of 440 Newton Liquid Engine and (b) logic for thrust augmentation by the attitude control thrusters, when needed.

However, when both primary and redundant coils were energised together, as one of the planned modes, the flow to the Liquid Engine stopped. The thrust level augmentation logic, as expected, came in and the operation continued using the attitude control thrusters. This sequence resulted in reduction of the incremental velocity.”

Artists concept shows Midnight Maneuver thruster firing of the liquid engine of ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission Spacecraft.  Credit: ISRO
Artists concept shows Midnight Maneuver thruster firing of the liquid engine of ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission Spacecraft. Credit: ISRO

It is not known at this time how or whether the requirement for a supplemental “midnight maneuver” engine firing will affect the mission’s timing at Earth and its operations and longevity at Mars.

Why are the firings called midnight maneuvers?

“Firing has to happen near the perigee and in the visibility from ISTRAC ground stations. All these orbits have argument of perigee of ~285 deg. When all these constraints are put together, firings time will almost always fall in to midnights of Indian sub continent,” said ISRO in response to a readers inquiry.

In the latest update, ISRO reports: “After achieving an apogee of around 78,000 km in last night’s Maneuver, ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission Spacecraft is all set to reach the apogee of One lakh km in a supplementary maneuver scheduled for 5 AM tomorrow. [Nov 12].”

MOM was to arrive in the vicinity of Mars on September 24, 2014 when the absolutely essential Mars orbital insertion firing by the 440 Newton liquid fueled main engine will slow the probe and place it into a 366 km x 80,000 km elliptical orbit.

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

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).

The low cost $69 Million MOM mission is the first of two new Mars orbiter science probes from Earth blasting off for the Red Planet this November.

Half a world away, NASA’s $671 Million MAVEN orbiter remains on target to launch in less than one week on Nov. 18 – from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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.

The MAVEN and MOM science teams will “work together” to unlock the secrets of Mars atmosphere and climate history, MAVEN’s top scientist Prof. Bruce Jakosky told Universe Today.

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

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

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