The country’s low-cost Mars mission, that completed six months of rendezvous with the red planet on Tuesday, has been extended by another six months due to surplus fuel, a senior ISRO official said.
“Mars orbiter spacecraft has completed six months orbiting around Mars today, its life has been extended for another six months. About 37 kgs of fuel is available which we feel is sufficient to last longer,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) spokesperson Deviprasad Karnik told PTI.
Scripting space history, India on September 24, 2014 successfully placed its low-cost Mars spacecraft in orbit around the red planet in its very first attempt, breaking into an elite club of three countries.
The Rs 450-crore MOM Mangalyaan is the cheapest inter-planetary mission that, at just USD 74 million, cost less than the estimated USD 100 million budget of the sci-fi blockbuster “Gravity” and a tenth of NASA’s Mars mission Maven that entered the Martian orbit on September 22.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had exultantly described the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) as “a historic occasion”, saying the country has achieved the “near impossible”.
Karnik said “all five payloads are on, Mars colour camera has already sent about three hundred odd pictures; the accummulation of data will continue but their analysis will take more time.”
Stating that the spacecraft will go through a “blackout” phase for about 15 days from June 8 to 22, he said that “during this period, Sun will block Mars from the earth snapping the communication with the satellite.
“At this time, MOM will go into autonomous mode and will take its decisions; we will not know about the fuel consumption at this time, once it comes out it will be analysed,” he added.
MOM aims to study Mars’ surface and mineral composition, and scan its atmosphere for methane, an indicator of life in Mars.
European, American and Russian probes have managed to orbit or land on the Mars but after several attempts. The first Chinese Mars mission, called Yinghuo-1, failed in 2011. In 1998, the Japanese mission ran out of fuel and was lost.
The ISRO spacecraft was launched on its nine-month-long odyssey on a homegrown PSLV rocket from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on November 5 2013 and had escaped the earth’s gravitational field on December 1.