Mars Orbiter Turns 2 -- What are the Orbiter's Contribution to Science So Far?
One of India's biggest project in terms of the industry is its Mars Orbiter. After successfully orbiting the red planet, the spacecraft is celebrating its second birthday. But what are its contributions to science so far?
Some of the most notable information gathered by Mars Orbiter includes the identification of aqueous activities during ancient Martian climate and the deeper understanding of Mar's ice cover changes during summer on the Northern Hemisphere.
The orbiter also estimated the dust patterns and layers of dust on Martian valleys and hills that can reach up to 1.5 kilometers. ISRO's Mars Orbiter also known as MOM also helped NASA in the study and observation of two Martian satellites, Phobos and Deimos.
"We are extremely happy with the overall performance of the mission. It was originally meant for only six months of operation. Because of fuel being available we were able to keep the mission for a longer time," ISRO chairman AS Kiran Kumar said in a statement.
India launched the orbiter to space last Sept. 24, 2014. Reports say that India is the first nation to successfully put a spacecraft around the red planet on its first attempt; this milestone etched the name of the country into the growing space industry.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and its debut were to put the orbiter into the Martian orbit and to have it circling the planet is the most "challenging maneuver" of the space mission. It had to orbit in such a certain manner to avoid the other Russia, U.S. and European warhorses with much bigger and more powerful rockets that started 50 years earlier than ISRO.
ISRO's Mars Obiter was only designed to perform for six months; however, two years after its launch, the orbiter is still scanning the red planet in an elliptical distance, around 400 km by 70,000 km and according to ISRO it still manages to send interesting images of Mars.
In celebration of the orbiter's second birthday, ISRO released archive data of the mission from the start until September 2015 while succeeding information will be released in an installment basis. "Rest of the data sets will be released every six months, " an ISRO official said in a statement.
In 2013, Mars Orbiter spent 300 days to rendezvous with Mars. The extended mission enabled the orbiter to gather more information about the red planet. Since then, the orbiter had sent colorful images of Martian terrain, valleys and hills from various angles and distances.
It also witnessed solar eclipses from a different point of view compared to eclipsed seen from Earth, which enabled scientists to gather more information about the phenomenon. The orbiter also managed to reconnect with Earth-borne base after losing signal for several days.
It also survived the harsh environment in space. It is said to have survived rare "comet dust" that could easily damage the sensitive instruments aboard the spacecraft. ISRO said, although it is not built to last a lifetime, the spacecraft is equipped with "full autonomy" and that it can take care of itself during the course of its mission, including the survival of natural incidents in space.
ISRO's Mars Orbiter is also considered as one of the most "economical" interplanetary mission.