India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) arrives at Mars

BY TAI CHISHAKWE - SEPTEMBER 24, 2014

After a journey of over 10 months, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) arrived at Mars on Wednesday, 24 September – following an insertion burn that was confirmed at 7:30am India Standard Time – to continue what has so far been a successful technology demonstration mission to showcase India’s entry in the realm of interplanetary research.

India not only becomes the fourth country to put a satellite in the Mars orbit but it actually pulled it off with only a fraction (US$74 million) of the huge budgets that the US space agency NASA often needs to launch interplanetary probes – making the cheapest space exploration mission ever.

What’s more, although the US, Russia and Europe have sent missions to Mars, only India has managed to succeed at first try.

“The odds were stacked against us. Of 51 missions attempted in the world, only 21 have succeeded. We have prevailed,” said an ecstatic Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister.

“Today, all of India should celebrate our scientists.

“If our cricket team wins a tournament the nation celebrates. Our scientists achievement is greater.”

Beginning as a feasibility study in 2010, the MOM was green lit by the Indian government on 3 August 2012 following completion of a US$21 million series of studies surrounding the mission.

With approval and appropriations in hand, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) undertook a 15-month construction process on the spacecraft, aiming for a target launch date of 28 October 2013.

Due to delays, the MOM – also called Mangalyaan, was launched from the Sriharikota spaceport on the coast of the Bay of Bengal on 5 November last year.

The Mangalyaan will now set about photographing the Red Planet and studying its atmosphere with a key goal of detecting methane gas in the Martian air, which could be an indication of biological activity on or below the Mars surface.

Meanwhile, the US’ Maven probe also arrived at Mars on Monday.

Photo caption: India's  Mangalyaan probe.