Published: 03rd October 2022
#WhatTheFAQ: The historic Mangalyaan bids adieu after eight long years
India's maiden interplanetary probe has lost contact with ISRO after orbiting Mars and relaying data for eight years. We take a look back at what made Mangalyaan so iconic
When Mangalyaan was launched a few years ago, it became the pride of the nation, for reasons more than one. And now, after eight years in orbit, it has lost touch with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Mangalyaan was extremely special. Not only has it published a Mars atlas, it has also lasted well beyond its initial mission duration of six months. Here's a look at India's first interplanetary probe and what it meant for the country.
What is the Mangalyaan?
Launched on November 5, 2013, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), or the Mangalyaan, was India's project to explore Planet Mars. It was launched into the orbit of Mars onboard PSLV-C25 by the ISRO in its first attempt. This is something that no space organisation has ever managed to do.
Why is it powering down now?
It was reported on Sunday, October 2, 2022, that ISRO had lost contact with Mangalyaan. After eight years in orbit, the MOM finally ran out of propellant fuel, and its battery drained as well. ISRO scientists attribute this to the two eclipses that recently impacted Mars. One of these lasted seven and a half hours, according to an ISRO official, who spoke to PTI. The MOM was designed only to handle an eclipse of one and a half hours, and hence, the spacecraft's battery drained beyond the limit.
What made Mangalyaan special?
Apart from attaining the feat of being inserted into the Mars orbit in one go, the MOM, which was also India's first interplanetary mission, is also noted for being budget-friendly — the project cost only Rs 450 crore or $ 74 million, at the time. Compare that to the cost of NASA's Mars probe ($651 million), or even the sci-fi movie The Martian which cost $108 million, and you'll know why it is considered a major feather in ISRO's cap. Incredibly, it stayed in orbit, relaying data for eight long years, way more than the initial mission life of just six months.
And what is special about the team that launched it into Mars orbit?
The launch mission was spearheaded by women! Right from Mission Designer Ritu Karidhal, Engineers Minal Rohit and Moumita Dutta to Deputy Operations Director Nandini Harinath, the names associated with his historic feat no doubt inspired another generation of young girls.
What information did Mangalyaan help gather?
Mangalyaan was equipped with five heterogeneous scientific payloads. These were Mars Color Camera (MCC), Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS), Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA) and Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP). As per a report by NDTV, they gathered data on surface geology, morphology, atmospheric processes, surface temperature and atmospheric escape process. Mangalyaan shared over 1,000 images of Mars and published a Mars atlas.