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India creates history as Isro successfully inserts Mangalyaan into Mars orbit

The event makes India the first country to place a spacecraft into Mars orbit on its first attempt

T E Narasimhan  |  Chennai 

September 24 will go down in history as a red letter day. Around 8 am on Wednesday, the India Space Research Organisation (Isro) successfully inserted its spacecraft 'Mangalyaan' into Mars' orbit, making India the first country to successfully carry out such a mission in its maiden attempt.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnessed the historic event from Isro's Spacecraft Control Centre at ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network in Bangalore. "Let today’s success, drive us with even greater vigour, and conviction. Let’s set ourselves, even more challenging goals," he said after the successful insertion of Mangalyaan into Martian orbit, adding that even if the mission had been a failure he would have been the first to back the scientists involved.

The chain of events that started at 4.17 a.m. with the spacecraft change over to Medium Gain Antenna, followed by series of orbiter insertion steps and finally, the reverse Manoeuver, culminated in the insertion into orbit of the spacecraft. After conducting a carefully controlled chain of events over almost four hours, Isro confirmed the Mission successful.

However, it was not without its nail-biting moments.

On September 22nd, Isro conducted the fourth Trajectory Correction Manoeuvre and a test firing of Main Liquid Engine, which was in sleep mode for nearly 300 days onboard spacecraft. The test firing was crucial considering the fact it would allow MOM to go-ahead with nominal plan for Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI). The success came even as the unmanned probe has entered the Mars Gravitational Sphere of Influence on the same day.

Nearly after 300 days of travel, the Indian spacecraft reached the Red Planet as scheduled on September 24th.

The Mission

The $74 million bill for India’s is the lowest compared to missions of other space agencies. For instance, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN's (MAVEN), which reached Mars on September 21, cost was $617 million.

(MOM), is India's first interplanetary mission to planet Mars with an orbiter craft designed to orbit Mars in an elliptical orbit.

The Mission is primarily technological mission considering the critical mission operations and stringent requirements on propulsion and other bus systems of spacecraft. It has been configured to carry out observation of physical features of mars and carry out limited study of Martian atmosphere with five payloads including Mars Colour Camera (MCC), Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS), Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA) and Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP).

India is the first Asian country and Isro is 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 only after several attempts. Given the high rate of failures -- only 21 of the total of 51 missions sent to Mars by various countries have been successful -- the success of MOM in the very first attempt is certain to boost India's global standing in space research.

First Published: Wed, September 24 2014. 08:02 IST