Bangalore: The country’s maiden mission to Mars is on course, with its orbiter crossing the halfway mark on its voyage to the red planet, four months after it left the Earth on December 1.
Red letter day: One of the first images of our planet clicked by the Mars Color Camera (MCC) onboard the Mars Orbiter. The picture was taken on November 19 from an altitude of 67,975 km. Pic/ISRO
Mangalyaan, which was launched on November 5 from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh, has travelled nearly 337.5 million kilometres till now.
“The spacecraft on, Wednesday at 9.50 am, crossed the halfway mark of its journey to Mars along the designated helio (sun)-centric trajectory in the solar orbit,” the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said in a statement.
“In terms of radio distance, the 1,337-kg orbiter is cruising at 39 million km away from Earth, travelling at 1.55 km per second in the sun’s orbit,” the space agency said.
At R450 crore, India’s Mars mission is the cheapest inter planetary mission ever undertaken. The mission intends to explore the presence of methane on the Red Planet with the help of five scientific instruments onboard the spacecraft.
The orbiter is expected to reach the Mars on September 24, when it will become the farthest any Indian object has ever travelled. Incidentally, the spacecraft is crossing the halfway mark a day after the Earth was at its closest to the red planet.
Of the 51 missions to Mars launched from across the world till date, 27 have failed so far.
To infinity and beyond
A team comprising nearly 500 ISRO scientists had worked tirelessly to ensure that Mangalyaan was ready for its launch within a record 15 months.
The mission to Mars was successfully launched on board PSLV C 25 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh on November 5. On December 1, the Trans-Mars Injection manoeuvre was conducted successfully, and the spacecraft was set in its course towards planet Mars through a helio-centric trajectory. If Mangalyaan manages to reach Mars, India will become the first country to achieve the enviable feat on a spacecraft’s maiden flight. Till date, only the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency have successfully managed to send a spacecraft all the way to Mars.