Man has always been fascinated by Mars, the Red Planet. There have been thousands of tales of both science fiction and science fact written about the fourth planet from the sun, as well as various space missions planned.
Once of the recent and extremely successful of those interplanetary ventures to Mars is India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), which is also known as Mangalyaan. The MOM started its Mars orbital mission in September 2014, and was set to go for six months of experimentation and exploration, but has now gotten a six month extension to keep studying the Red Planet.
The MOM is the Indian Space Research Organization’s first interstellar mission, making them the 4th group to get to Mars. The previous successful space agencies to make it to Mars were the US’ NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency and the European Space Agency. In fact, the MOM has company on Mars at this time, because NASA has the Maven and two other orbiters, as well as two rovers, and Europe has the Mars Express orbiter there circling the Red Planet.
The planned lifespan for MOM had been thought to be only six months, but it has been determined that the orbiter has enough fuel to go another 180 days. This is being in part attributed to a reserve 37 kilogram fuel supply it had on board.
During the first six months of its Mars mission, five scientific on-board gear conducted several important experiments and will now continue to collect information. The Mars orbiter sends this data back to the Indian Space Research Organization’s deep space network, where scientific teams analyze it.
Among other things, the MOM has taken more than 300 pictures of Mars’ surface, including craters, mountains, storms, etc. The Indian Space Research Organization is credited with being the least costly Mars space mission at a cost of only Rs 450 crore, which is $74 million in US dollars. They also made history due to the fact that India was the first country to make a Mars orbit on its first try. China had tried back in 2011, but their mission failed.
The Mars Orbiter Mission rose from its launching pad from the Satish Dhawan Space Center through the help of a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle November 5, 2013. After 30 days in Earth orbit, it headed off to Mars. The trip to the Red Planet took the orbiter nearly 300 days to complete.
The mission was undertaken as a technology demonstration project meant to help develop future types of technologies for designing, scheduling, managing and operating future interplanetary space missions. It is believed that all of the data the MOM collects during its mission will help space agencies in the future plan more missions of this kind.