Mars meets MOM: Red-letter day for India as Mangalyaan reaches Red Planet orbit
India created history on Wednesday, becoming the first country to succeed on its first Mars mission when Isro's Mangalyaan slipped into Martian orbit after a few nail-biting moments.
The country joined the United States, European Space Agency and the former Soviet Union in the elite club of Martian explorers with the Mars Orbiter Mission, affectionately called MOM.
Most of MOM’s Mars orbit insertion happened in the dark because the spacecraft was around the surface of the planet that did not receive sunlight. The first images of Mars will be transmitted to Isro’s Indian Deep Space Network facility at Byalalu in Karnataka in the afternoon.
Mangalyaan, which relies on homegrown technology, is a remarkably low budget mission of about $75 million. NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, or Maven, which reached its position around the Red Planet on Sunday has a price tag of $671 million - nearly nine times that of MOM's.
Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory had wished their Indian counterparts luck a day ago. “Good luck MOM. From your JPL family,”
India expands boundaries of knowledge with Mars Orbiter Mission
India's feat gains significane in the light of the fact that more than half the world's previous attempts - 23 out of 41 Mars missions - have failed, including attempts by Japan in 1999 and China in 2011.
India has said its spacecraft is chiefly meant to showcase the country's high-tech space abilities. Already, India has successfully launched a lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, which discovered key evidence of water on the Moon in 2008.
Reaching Mars: How it happened
MOM's scientific goals including using five solar-powered instruments to gather data that will help determine how Martian weather systems work and what happened to the water that is believed to have once existed on Mars in large quantities. It will also search Mars for methane, a key chemical in life processes on Earth that could also come from geological processes.
None of the instruments will send back enough data to answer these questions definitively, but experts say the data will help them better understand how planets form, what conditions might make life possible and where else in the universe it might exist. Some of the data will complement research expected to be conducted by Maven.
The spacecraft is expected to circle the planet for at least six months, following an elliptical orbit that gets within 365 kilometers (227 miles) of the planet's surface at its closest and 80,000 kilometers (49,700 miles) at its farthest.