Crucial success

Crucial success

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has accomplished a remarkable feat with the successful completion of the early stages of the Mars Orbital Mission.

The Mangalyaan was manoeuvred into a solar orbit from its orbit around the earth on Sunday morning and has thus broken out of the planet’s gravitational field. This was a crucial operation and it is a matter of pride that India is the only country to find success in the first time attempt of a Mars mission launch. Some of them failed because they did not attain the required velocity to move out of the earth’s orbit during the trans-Mars injection period. Some others failed because of damage to systems on board. The Indian spacecraft is in good health and all its systems are working normally and according to expectations.

A glitch in the second stage of the mission, when an orbit raising manoeuvre did not work, had given a scare. But the problem was resolved with a compensatory mechanism. It is also creditable that Isro has done for the first time many of the operations in the early stages of the mission. The spacecraft is now well on its way to Mars millions of miles away and it is scheduled to have its rendezvous with the red planet after 10 months. There will be course corrections on the way but the next most important manoeuvre will be to inject the spacecraft into the Martian orbit in September.

Since control from the earth will become progressively difficult with the passage of the spacecraft over large distances, most of the operations will have to be done autonomously with the help of programmes built into the systems. So there are more challenges before the entire mission gets to accomplish the tasks which have been set for it. The aims of the mission are to study the surface of Mars and its mineral composition and to look for the presence of methane, which is an indicator of life, in its atmosphere.

The Mangalyaan mission also stands out for its low cost and the largely indigenous effort it has involved. More than two-thirds of the equipment and the rocket were made in India and its cost is much less than that of similar missions of other countries. This shows the commercial value of the venture. But more important is the scientific and technological expertise and aspirations of the country that it underlines.

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