India created space history by becoming the first country in the world to enter Mars orbit in its maiden attempt, an event that Prime Minister Narendra Modi described as achieving the “near impossible”.
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) glided over 650 million km through deep space for over nine months to reach the red planet’s orbit.
“The spacecraft (Orbiter) successfully entered the Martian orbit at 7.55 a.m. and is located at about 515 km from its surface…,” a senior space official said at the mission control centre here.
Radars at the earth stations of NASA at Goldstone in the US, Madrid in Spain, Canberra in Australia and India’s own deep space network at Baylalu near Bangalore received the radio signals from the Orbiter, confirming its insertion in the Mars orbit.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who keenly witnessed the event, exhorted that the successful Mars mission “must become a base for challenging the next frontier”.
The success “will go down as landmark in history”, said a visible delighted Modi.
The prime minister said that the MOM was built “indigenously, in a pan-Indian effort” and added that India is the only country to have succeeded in its very first attempt.
“With today’s spectacular success, ISRO joins an elite group, of only three other agencies worldwide to have successfully reached the red planet,” he added amidst applause.
Modi, wearing a red coloured jacket, said that the “odds, were stacked against us”.
“Of the 51 missions, attempted across the world so far, a mere 21 had succeeded. But we have prevailed,” he said.
He went on: “Travelling an incredible distance, of over 650 million or 65 crore kms, we have gone beyond boundaries of human enterprise and imagination.”
The final orbiting exercise began in the early hours at 4.17 a.m. when the spacecraft switched over to the medium gain antenna to emit and receive radio signals.
After rotating the Orbiter towards Mars at 6.57 a.m., the main engine was ignited at 7.17 a.m. for enabling the spacecraft enter its orbit from the sun orbit, where it cruised for over nine months and 24 days during its voyage to the red planet from the Earth.
During the crucial operation, when a solar eclipse occurred on Mars from 7.12 a.m., the 440 Newton liquid apogee motor (LAM) of the main engine started its burn at 7.30 a.m. and lasted for 24 minutes till 7.54 a.m. to swing the spacecraft into the Martian orbit.
The speed of the spacecraft was also reduced by 2.14 metre per second from 22.2 km per second for entering the Martian orbit from the sun orbit.
The five scientific instruments onboard the 475kg (dry mass) Orbiter will study the red planet’s surface, its mineral composition and scan its atmosphere for methane gas in search of life-sustaining elements.
The Rs.450-crore ($70 million) ambitious mission was launched Nov 5, 2013 on board a polar rocket from spaceport Sriharikota off Bay of Bengal, about 80 km northeast of Chennai.
The success of the Mars mission has made India join the elite club of the US, Europe and Russia, which reached the red planet after initial failures.
The state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) became the fourth international space agency after National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US, Russian Federal Space Agency (RFSA) and European Space Agency to have undertaken successful missions to Mars.
India also became the first Asian country to have entered the Mars sphere of influence (gravity) Tuesday, as a similar mission by China failed in 2011.
As the fourth planet away from sun, Mars is the second smallest celestial body in the solar system. Named after Roman god of war, it is also known as red planet due to the presence of iron oxide in abundance, giving it a reddish appearance.
Though both the planets have equal period of revolution around their axis, Mars takes 24 hours and 37 minutes to complete a revolution. Earth takes 365 days to orbit sun while Mars 687 days to move around sun.
“We have demonstrated and proved our technological capabilities in undertaking outer space missions with an indigenous rocket and our own spacecraft,” a beaming ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan said on the occasion.
“MOM is a major step towards our future missions in the inter-planetary space,” he added.