Science, Technology & Environment

ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission completes 3 years in orbit

ISRO’s globally acclaimed Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) also known as Mangalyaan completed three years in Martian orbit. It has outlived its original lifespan and is still in good health and continues to work as expected.

On the occasion of completion of three years, ISRO released MOM second year science data from September 24, 2014 to September 23, 2016.

Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)

Mangalyaan spacecraft was launched on board of PSLV C25 rocket from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on November 5, 2013 with aim of studying Martian surface and mineral composition as well as scan its atmosphere for methane (an indicator of life on Mars). It had entered Mar’s orbit on September 24, 2014, in its first attempt. It was nine-month-long mission.

The spacecraft was indigenously designed, built and launched by ISRO in record period of less than two years in Rs.450 crore ($73 million US) budget, making it cheapest inter-planetary mission till date to reach Mars.

The spacecraft has five instruments mounted on it for collecting scientific data of Mar’s morphology, atmospheric processes, surface temperature, surface geology and atmospheric escape process. These five instruments are Lyman-Alpha Photometer (LAP), Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA), Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS) and Mars Colour Camera (MCC)

Records

In September 2014, India (ISRO) created space history by becoming first nation in world to successfully launch interplanetary mission spacecraft into Mars orbit in maiden attempt. ISRO also become first Asian and fourth space agency in world to reach Mars orbit after the Roscosmos of Russia, NASA and European Space Agency.

Awards

For its enormous success in Mangalyaan mission, ISRO was conferred 2014 Indira Gandhi Peace Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development. The programme team of mission was conferred with prestigious 2015 Space Pioneer Award in Science and Engineering category by National Space Society (NSS).

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Osiris-Rex: NASA’s asteroid-bound spacecraft swings by Earth

NASA’s asteroid-chasing spacecraft Osiris-Rex successfully swung by Earth to put it on desired trajectory towards near earth asteroid Bennu using Earth’s gravity. It passed within 17,237 kilometres from Earth above Antarctica.

During closest flyby, Osiris-Rex’s science instruments were tested by scanning Earth and moon as a practice for its operations at Bennu.

OSIRIS-REx

The OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) mission was launched in September 2016 for studying 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid. It is NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission. Japan already has visited an asteroid and returned some specks.

The spacecraft will reach small, roundish asteroid in 2018 and return to Earth after collecting some of its gravels by 2023. It will capture 2 ounces of dust on asteroid using its robotic arm without landing i.e. by hovering like a hummingbird stirred up by nitrogen gas thruster  and then begun its return trip to earth.

101955 Bennu is near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid about the size of a small mountain in the Apollo group. It was discovered in September 1999 by the LINEAR Project.

Significance of mission

NASA scientists believe that Bennu asteroid holds clues to origin of solar system and life and source of water and organic molecules found on Earth. Material returned from asteroid is expected to enable scientists to learn more about the formation and evolution of the Solar System. It will also give insights of initial stages of planet formation and the source of organic compounds which led to the formation of life on Earth.

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