Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mangalyaan, India's first probe to Mars, launched

Official planned trajectory of Mangalyaan, from earth till its capture by MarsVery brief official announcement. Official name: "Mars Orbiter Mission Spacecraft". But local media has been calling it "Mangalyaan".

On to its nearly a year long journey - scheduled to go in orbit around Mars on 24 September 2014. Is currently in orbit around earth; will actually leave earth's orbit on 30 November 2013.

Incidentally, today is Tuesday - Mangalwaar in Hindi, literally "Mars day".

In addition to half a dozen Indian communications facilities - on land & on ships in the South Pacific, the "American NASA/JPL is providing communications and navigation support".

Cost: Rs 450 cr. US $72m at current exchange rate. It would really have been about $100m but for the free fall of rupee during the last couple of months.

Other perspectives on cost:
  1. "Rs 12 per km, equivalent to Auto fare"! It's actually Rs 450 cr/780m km = Rs 5.77/km; that would be may be half the rickshaw fare in Bombay. That's ignoring the cost of the spaceship, just transport would be cheaper.
  2. "Gravity movie cost 600 Cr and Mangalyaan ... is 450 Cr."
  3. "in $ terms,entire ISRO #MarsMission cost less than the Commonwealth Games 2010 opening ceremony"
  4. "2G Scam : Rs.176,000 crores | Mangalyaan Rs. 450 crores".
Here are some official pictures of the spacecraft wrapped in golden colored film.

ISRO has posted a beautiful annotated schematic image of the planned spacecraft trajectory - from launch to capture by Mars.

It's a significantly cut down version of the original planned craft, with a lot of instruments dumped. Because the big-lift rocket is still in the works.

There is a sobering history of Mars launches, however. Both US & USSR had a lot of failures before reaching there, Japan & China have both tried & failed so far. And average international success rate so far has been less than 50%. "No other space agency has been fully successful with first attempts at similar programs." I'll wish ISRO all the best, but wait a year before celebrating - till it actually enters the Mars orbit.

There was a story in Indian Express about the project time till launch: 15 months when the NASA & ESA norm is 2-2.5 times as much. I wonder if politics played a role in compressing the project time: with elections due next year, Congress gets to claim the credit for launch?

"Mars Orbiter Mission carries five scientific payloads to observe Martian surface, atmosphere and exosphere extending up to 80,000 km for a detailed understanding of the evolution of that planet, especially the related geologic and the possible biogenic processes on that interesting planet. These payloads consist of a camera, two spectrometers, a radiometer and a photometer. ... MCC [Mars Color Camera] will also be used for probing the two satellites of Mars-Phobos & Deimos."

And can the jokes be far behind:
  1. 'Meanwhile an astrologer on Mars: "Aapke bete par dharti ki dasha chal rahi hai."'
  2. "Rajnikant lit a Diwali rocket yesterday. Today they're started calling it #Mangalyaan".
  3. "The Biggest Rocket this Diwali Season".
  4. A very funny illustration of the exterior of the rocket. Caution: Jokes are very Indian & might easily escape others.
Related: Fiction set on Mars, Phobos, Deimos.


Rusty said...

This is very cool Tinkoo! I hope the craft makes it to Mars and collects a wealth of data!

Tinkoo said...

I'll be very happy if it just makes there, a target I think ISRO really wants to achieve. Sheer complexity of the trajectory, & the fact that only US & USSR have gone there alone so far & after a lot of failures, will make this an achievement & give a lot of confidence.

I'm not too hopeful of collecting a wealth of data, though it has the first dedicated methane sensor for Mars. In fact, the key criticism of the previous ISRO director has been on this count: didn't wait for the big-launch rocket that is still in development, resulting in cutting down the spacecraft weight. Means lack of a comprehensive bank of instruments & a very elliptical orbit around Mars - both of which hamper scientific experiments. The hurry appears to have at least some link to the elections due in a few months.