India joins the Mars-athon

Published: 06 November, 2013 07:31 IST | The Hitlist Team |

With ISRO launching its first rocket to Mars at a lower cost than previous missions, the country is aiming to become only the fourth space agency to reach the mysterious planet

Sriharikota: India launched a rocket in hopes it will join an elite group of space explorers to Mars. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched their Mars Orbiter Mission Mangalyaan yesterday at 2.38 pm - only NASA, the former Soviet Union and the Europeans have previously been successful in operating probes from Mars.

The cost of the United States’ ‘Curiosity’ mission to Mars, which was launched in 2011 was $2.5 billion

Japan made an attempt with the Nozomi orbiter in 1998 but it failed to reach the planet and a Chinese probe was lost along with the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission in January 2012. The UK’s Beagle 2 probe separated from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter in 2003 but nothing was ever heard from the lander.

It will take 10 months for India’s Mars Orbiter Mission to reach the Red Planet after lifting off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre near Chennai. The probe will explore the planet’s surface features, minerals and atmosphere. As the launch vehicle soared spaceward scientists could be heard shouting ‘Buriah!’ - brilliant.

Locals hold posters and shout slogans minutes after the launch of the Mars Orbiter Mission. The The PSLV-C25 vehicle, carrying the Orbiter. Pics/AFP

Exactly at 2.38 pm, the rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C25 (PSLV-C22) standing around 44 metres tall and weighing around 320 tonnes - rose from its launching pad slowly, and then gathered speed as it climbed into the skies on a tail of orange flames.

The expendable rocket, costing around Rs 110 crore, had a single but important luggage, the 1,340-kg Mars orbiter costing around Rs 150 crore. Around Rs 90 crore has been spent on augmenting the ground support/tracking systems.

Minutes after its launch, the Prime Minister in a tweet congratulated ISRO scientists for “successful initiation of Mars Mission and wishes for its successful future”. President Pranab Mukherjee described it as “a landmark in our space programme”.

“I am extremely happy to announce PSLV-C25 placed Mars orbiter spacecraft very precisely in elliptical orbit around Earth... Now it will be complex mission to take the Mars orbiter from the Earth’s orbit to Mars orbit,” K Radhakrishnan, ISRO chairman, said post launch.

He added, “The biggest challenge will be precisely navigating the space craft to Mars.” Radhakrishnan and his wife offered prayers Tuesday morning at a 200-year-old shrine to the Hindu god Vishnu, asking for success in the launch. According to him, in September 2014 the orbiter will be around Mars and it will then be placed in Mars orbit.

300 days
The amount of time it will take for Mangalyaan to reach the Red planet

Rs 450-crore
Cost of the entire project

44 metres
The height of the rocket - Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C25 - carrying the orbiter

320 tonnes
The weight of the rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C25 carrying the orbiter

852 kg
The amount of fuel it will require to reach Mars

400 million km
Distance the rocket will cover

The number of missions by different countries to reach Mars

Failed Asian missions:
Recent efforts by other Asian nations to reach Mars have failed after successful launches.
China’s 2011 attempt with Russia to send the Yinghuo-1 satellite to Mars failed after the Russian rocket carrying it was unable to leave Earth orbit. A Japanese 2003 mission to Mars was unable to place a satellite into Martian orbit.

The Maven is NASA’s mission to Mars on November 18
It has taken at least 5 years of work
$679 million the cost of the mission

The Mangalyaan is ISRO’s mission to
Mars which took off on November 5
ISRO took only 18 months to complete
$69 million the cost of the mission

Did you know?
Earthlings’ first successful landing on Mars happened in May 1971 with the Soviet Union’s Mars 3 lander. It failed after sending 20 seconds of video data to the orbiter, however. NASA claimed a big success the same year: Mariner 9 marked the first time a US spacecraft had orbited a planet other than our own.

India can afford mission: Scientist
Silencing critics of the Rs 450-crore Mars Orbiter Mission, an Indian space scientist said that India can afford the spend on the mission. Congratulating the ISRO scientists on the successful launch of the Mars orbiter, UR Rao, a former ISRO head, said the country can afford the spend. “India spends around Rs 5,000 crore on Diwali purchases and Rs 450 crore to reach Mars. It is affordable," he said.

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