Mars orbiter insertion tomorrow; will India make space history?

Last Updated 23 September 2014, 11:20 IST

As India's Mars mission moved a step closer to home after the dormant main engine on the spacecraft was testfired flawlessly, ISRO looked confident of giving one final nudge tomorrow to put it in orbit around Mars that, if successful, would see it make space history.

In the final lap, the operation is scheduled to be performed at 07:17:32 hrs tomorrow by firing the LAM along with eight smaller liquid engines for about 24 minutes.

The tricky manoeuvre involves slowing down the spacecraft now moving at benumbing speed to be captured in the Martian orbit, success of which would make India the first country to go to Mars in the maiden attempt.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will witness the crucial Mars Orbiter Insertion at the Spacecraft Control Centre at ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) here.

The main engine on the spacecrat, in slumber since the 300-day journey began, was woken up yesterday, though for four seconds after a successful crucial manoeuvre that has raised the confidence level of ISRO scientists.

The 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) on Mars Orbiter Spacecraft was last fired on December 01, 2013. Yesterday's twin operation also involved a trajectory correction that means the spacecraft is on course.

In the final action tomorrow, the orbiter has to be slowed down from 22.1 km per second to 4.4 km per second in relation to the red planet to be captured by the Martian orbit. The engine would be fired for 24 minutes to reduce its velocity and insert it into the Martian orbit.

ISRO has uploaded commands to help the spacecraft automatically enter the orbit.
India will be the first country to enter the Mars orbit on a maiden mission if it succeeds. It will also be the first Asian country and ISRO the fourth space agency to send a satellite to the Red Planet. European, US and Russian probes have managed to orbit or land on the planet, but after several attempts.

Given the high rate of failures --only 21 of the total of 51 missions sent to Mars by various countries being successful-- the success of MOM in the very first shot would boost India's global standing in Space.

After the crucial manoeuvre yesterday, ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan said the spacecraft was "healthy" after completing 98 per cent of its 666 million km journey. "....we are now prepared for that crucial operation to take place on September 24 morning."

The MOM entered the Mars Gravitational Sphere of Influence yesterday. The spacecraft had escaped the earth gravity pull on December 1 last.

As US NASA's MAVEN spacecraft began orbiting the Red Planet for the second day today, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory has conveyed its best wishes to ISRO for Mars Orbit Insertion tomorrow.

"Good Luck MOM! From your JPL family!" said the message.

(Published 23 September 2014, 11:20 IST)

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