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Mission possible

In a ‘new and complex mission design’, ISRO’s PSLV C 25 successfully injected the 1,350-kg ‘Mangalyaan’ Orbiter (‘Mars craft’ in Hindi) into the orbit around Earth some 44 minutes after a text book launch at 2.38 pm from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here, marking the successful completion of the first stage of the Rs 450 crore mission.

Entering a new frontier in space technology, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s mission is aimed at establishing India’s capability to reach the Red Planet and would focus on looking for presence of methane, an indicator of life there. ‘The PSLV C25 vehicle has placed the Mars Orbiter spacecraft very precisely into an elliptical orbit around Earth,’ ISRO chief K Radhakrishnan said after the launch.

This is the 25th flight of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and ‘it has been a new and complex mission design to ensure that we would be able to move the MARS Orbiter spacecraft from the orbit of Earth to the orbit of MARS with minimum energy,’ he said from Mission Control Room.

After going around Earth for 25 days in an elliptical orbit (perigee of 250 km and apogee of 23,500 km), the golden coloured probe, the size of a small car, would embark on a 10-month long voyage to Mars around 12.42 am on 1 December. It is expected to reach the Red Planet’s orbit by 24 September next and go around in an elliptical orbit (periapsis of 366 km and apo-apsis of 80,000 km).

‘I am happy to say the spacecraft is in good health. It has done a task what had to be done,’ Radhakrishnan told reporters. The rocket injected the satellite into Earth’s orbit over South America, which was captured by ISRO’s sea-borne terminals on board Shipping Corporation of India’s vessels SCI Nalanda and SCI Yamuna in the South Pacific Ocean.

There was a data break of over 10 minutes as expected after burn-out of the third stage and the Mission Control Centre got signals on ignition of the fourth stage. ‘The biggest challenge will be precisely navigating the spacecraft to Mars,’ said Radhakrishnan, adding, ‘We will know if we pass our examination on 24 September 2014.’

The robotic satellite, which is undertaking the over 200-million-km long journey to Mars, is equipped with five instruments, including a sensor to track methane or marsh gas - a possible sign of life - on Mars. If all goes well and the satellite orbits the Red Planet, ISRO will become the fourth in the world after those of the US, Russia and Europe to undertake a successful Mars mission. The Mars missions of China and Japan have failed.

Meanwhile, prime minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday hailed the launch of Mars Mission as a ‘historic achievement’ and congratulated ISRO scientists for the significant milestone.

Singh called up Radhakrishnan to congratulate him and his team of scientists and extended best wishes for its successful future. ‘I congratulate you and your team for this historic achievement,’ he told Radhakrishnan.
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