Journalists get a peek at the Mars Orbiter Mission

Journalists from India (AFAIK) got a peek into the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft on Wednesday. The PTI copy was meticulous but dry. Pallava Bagla at NDTV still insists on calling it Mangalyaan. The other interesting pieces appeared in The Hindu and The Times of India respectively. Might also be worth looking at the links to see pictures of the spacecraft. I wish ISRO put up some pics as well so that poor bloggers like me sitting at home can post them on the blog without having to worry about copyright violations.

The Mars Orbiter Mission, as ISRO calls it, has come through a rather demanding timeline in terms of space projects to enable it to launch during the October-November 2013 launch window that has opened up to Mars as it closes on its opposition to Earth.  At the previous such opportunity in 2011, the Russians launched the long pending Phobos-Grunt mission to Mars. China piggybacked on the mission with its own small spacecraft the YH-1.

India also hopes to send a relatively small spacecraft to Mars. The Orbiter will launch on ISRO’s dependable rocket, PSLV using extended strap-ons. The launch itself will be set against the dramatic backdrop of the North-Eastern monsoon and the beginning of the cyclone season in the Bay of Bengal.

As per press reports, the spacecraft will move to Sriharikota from the ISRO Satellite Center on September 27. This will be after a “national review” which is to be held on September 19. The spacecraft will be integrated on the PSLV-C25, being currently assembled at the Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota. This PSLV-XL will have slightly larger strap-on motors. The spacecraft will fly from Sriharikota and will use the help of two civilians ships in the south Pacific ocean en-route to the red planet. The spacecraft will take one year to reach Mars. In September 2014, the spacecraft will perform the critical Mars orbit injection maneuver. The first signals from the spacecraft will be received by the NASA Deep Space Network at Canberra, Australia.

As we prepare, September will be a month of action for ISRO. As it works on the spacecraft to ensure that it is space-worthy, two civilian ships will be sent to the south Pacific ocean on September 15, 2013 from Visakhapatnam. These will help during the phase after launch and whilst the spacecraft will be headed to Mars.

This page maintained by NASA lists mission failures of the Mission to Mars is a good indicator on why it is a good idea to leave no gaps in mission planning to Mars. Spacecrafts have wide open areas for failure – reaching Earth orbit, the coast to Mars, reaching Mars orbit and perhaps even whilst the orbiter is in orbit. One can but hope.

Here’s wishing India’s Mars Orbiter Mission Godspeed on its journey to Mars.

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