42-minute Mars probe launch on November 5, longest ever

42-minute Mars probe launch on November 5, longest ever

It will be a 42-minute tense flight on November 5 2013, the longest for a PSLV launch and the watch between the third and fourth stages after blast-off will also be the longest for any space launch from India.

But that’s what it takes for a complex mission to planet Mars. The launch of India’s first interplanetary probe, Mars Orbiter Spacecraft onboard PSLV-C25 (in its XL version), is scheduled for lift-off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota at 2.36 pm.

The 1,350 kg (2,980 pound) Mars orbiter, also known as ‘Mangalyaan’, will conduct search for potential signatures of Martian methane – which could originate from both living and non-living sources. The historic Mars bound probe is also a precursor to a robotic exploration. 

The orbiter has five science instruments, including a color imager and methane gas sniffer to study martian atmosphere, morphology, mineralogy and surface features. The primary objectives of the mission are to demonstrate India’s technological capability to send a satellite into orbit around Mars and conduct experiments looking for signs of life, take pictures of the planet and study its environment.

After leaving the earth’s orbit, the spacecraft will cruise in deep space for about 10 months using its own propulsion system and will reach Martian transfer trajectory in September 2014. 

The spacecraft subsequently is planned to enter into a 372-km by 80,000-km elliptical orbit around Mars. 

Search for methane, considered a “precursor chemical” for life, is the major priority and methane sensor, one of the five payloads on board, would look to detect its presence.

 The launch, postponed by a week, was to have happened on October 28. The deferment was  because one of the two ships, Nalanda (the other being Yamuna) for tracking the rocket, had not yet reached Fiji islands in the South Pacific Ocean.

Isro spokesperson Devi Prasad Karnik told Deccan Herald that the two ships will have terminals from which the rocket will be tracked while flying over the South Pacific Ocean. 

“There are no tracking stations on the ground in that region. No country in the world has that. So we were compelled to deploy two ships in the South Pacific Ocean with two terminals to track the ignition of the fourth stage of the rocket and the separation of the spacecraft from the launch vehicle. 

“This can be done only by ship-borne equipment, one of which we have borrowed from DRDO. The ships will be separated by a distance of 2000 km in the ocean,” she said. 

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