Isro's Mars orbiter crosses moon orbit

Isro's Mars orbiter crosses moon orbit

Becoming the farthest object that India has sent into the space, Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro) spacecraft to Mars crossed the moon’s orbit on Monday and is on its way towards the Red Planet.

“The Mars Orbiter has crossed the distance of the moon’s orbit around 8 am and is now the farthest object India has sent into the interplanetary space,” said a senior space agency official.

As earth’s only natural satellite, the moon is around 3,84,400 km away and is the fifth largest of its kind in the solar system.

Cruising at 32 km per second in the 680 million km solar orbit, the Orbiter flew over the satellite, crossing the moon’s orbit where India’s moon craft Chandrayaan-1 orbited in 2008-09.

The spacecraft has cruised a distance of 5,36,000 km from earth by 5 pm Monday.
“The Orbit is on course and cruising to escape the earth’s sphere of influence early on Wednesday (01:15 am), which extends up to 9,18,347 km in the deep space,” Isro Director Deviprasad Karnik said.

Scientists at the Indian Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (Istrac) here and the Indian Deep Space Network at Byalalu, about 40km from Bangalore, are monitoring the spacecraft’s movement in the sun-synchronous orbit and checking its subsystems.

“The Orbiter has crossed the rubicon never to return, as it was freed from the earth’s gravity early on Sunday and is on way towards the Red Planet,” Karnik said.
The craft flung into outer space at 1:11 am on December 1, after its engine was fired for 22 minutes for the crucial trans-Mars injection at a velocity (speed) of 648 metres per second.

The deep space network will conduct the first of the four mid-course corrections on December 11 to ensure that the Orbiter stays on course in the Sun’s orbit.
After a nine-month long journey, the spacecraft, in mid-September 2014, will enter the Mars sphere of influence, which is around 5,73,473 km from its surface, in a hyperbolic trajectory.

“When the spacecraft is closest to Mars in mid-September, it will be made to move into the Martian orbit through a crucial manoeuvre,” Karnik said.

Transition from the earth’s final orbit to the solar orbit was programmed in line with the Sun’s gravity and laws of the universe to ensure that the Orbiter reaches precisely on time to sling into the Martian orbit in mid-September.

The 1,337 kg Orbiter was launched November 5 from Sriharikota off the Bay of Bengal, about 80 km north east of Chennai, on board a 350-tonne rocket with five scientific instruments — Mars Colour Camera, Methane Sensor, Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer, Lyman Alpha Photometer and Mars exospheric Netural Composition Analyser.

India became the first Asian country and fourth nation in the world to leap into the interplanetary space with its Rs 450-crore exploratory mission to Mars, which is about 400 million km   from earth.

So far, only Russia, the United States and the European Space Agency have undertaken such missions.

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