New Delhi: With less than 48 hours left for the planned for the insertion of Mangalyaan into Mars' orbit, ISRO, Monday completed a critical manoeuvre by successfully test firing the liquid fuel engine of its Mars spacecraft (Orbiter) after it entered the sphere of Mars influence earlier in the day.
Speaking to a news channel, ISRO chief K Radhakrishanan expressed joy over the achievement. He said the spacecraft is healthy and has completed 88% of its journey, adding that the space agency is prepared for the critical operation to be conducted at 7:30 am on September 24 when Mangalyaan will enter Mars' orbit.
While he was confident that India will be able to achieve success in its maiden Mars mission, Radhakrishnan added that ISRO is “looking for all possibilities if something doesn’t happen as per the plan”.
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), India’s first interplanetary mission, was launched by India’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the spaceport of Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on November 5 last year.
The spacecraft had left Earth’s orbit on December 1 and began its historic 666 million kilometre voyage to put India on the list of elite nations, which has sent a mission to Mars.
Now that the spacecraft has entered the Mars’ influence, its velocity has to be controlled so that it does not escape the Mars’ influence.
In a critical act in the final moments on September 24, the orbiter has to be slowed down from 22.1 km per second to 4.4 km per second in relation to the red planet to be captured by the Martian orbit for the mission to be declared a success.
The engine would be fired for 24 minutes on that day to reduce its velocity and insert it into the Martian orbit.
If the Rs 450 crore MOM mission turns out to be a success, ISRO would be the fourth space agency in the world to have sent a mission to Mars. European Space Agency (ESA) of European consortium, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US and Roscosmos of Russia are the only three agencies which have so far sent their missions to the red planet.
Only 21 of the total of 51 missions sent to Mars by various countries have been successful.
If ISRO succeeds on Wednesday, India would be the first Asian country to go to Mars and also the first to succeed in the maiden attempt.
ISRO would utilise four ground stations for the operation--- Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) at Byalalu near Bangalore, Goldstone in USA, Madrid in Spain and Canberra in Australia.