MOM Orbiter enters 6th year, ISRO eyes Mangalyaan-2

MOM Orbiter enters 6th year, ISRO eyes Mangalyaan-2

Representative image

As the Chandrayaan-2 mission recedes to the background with claims and counter-claims of its success, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is now shifting gears to focus on its manned mission Gaganyaan, Mars mission Mangalyaan-2 and other future projects.

Exceeding its designed life of six months by a whopping 4.5 years, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is expected to orbit the red planet for some more time, as Isro Chairman K Sivan put it. Its success has given the space agency the confidence to start work on Mangalyaan-2.

Operating with a similar objective of the Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter, the MOM has already captured two terabytes of high-resolution imagery of the Martian surface. Its onboard cameras have also grabbed close up visuals of the Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos.

MOM carries five scientific payloads to study the Martian surface features, morphology, mineralogy, and Martian atmosphere. Analysis of MOM data is now under progress, says Isro.

But if MOM is doing so well, why plan a second Mangalyaan mission? Here's why, as Isro explains: Recent discoveries show that Mars possesses a record of diverse surfaces created due to geological processes, weathering events during the last few 100 million years.

This complete geological record could provide clues to how planets evolved and how and whether life arose elsewhere in the solar system. This record, according to Isro, is yet to be found on the Moon or the Earth.

Data from MOM has already shown geomorphological features on Mars that suggests an early warm and wet climate, and perhaps conducive to the emergence of primitive life. “Mars is considered to be unique as it has experienced processes similar to that existing on Earth during formation and its evolution.”

The Mangalyaan mission and other orbiter and rover missions to Mars by multiple nations have provided direct evidence of hydrated minerals on the exposed surface and the presence of water ice at sub-surface regions. A new mission will probe deeper.

India's first space endeavour to cross the Earth's orbit successfully, the Mangalyaan mission, including its launch vehicle, the spacecraft and ground segment cost only Rs 450 crore. Although the new mission is still in the design stage, its payload capability is likely to be 100kg.