300-day Mars odyssey begins today

It is the 25th launch of the trusted PSLV

With the weather holding fine and the state-of-the-art Mission Control Centre becoming the nerve-centre of activity, the countdown is gathering momentum at the spaceport at Sriharikota for the lift-off of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C25) on Tuesday for the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) debut attempt to send a spacecraft to Mars, about 40 crore km away.

“The countdown is going on as per schedule. Everything is progressing well. The weather is good,” K. Radhakrishnan, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), told The Hindu from Sriharikota around 5.15 p.m. on Monday. “Everybody is working seriously for the launch.”

At the end of the 56.5-hour countdown which began at 6.08 a.m. on Sunday, the XL version of the PSLV will rise from the first launch pad at 2.38 p.m. on Tuesday and put the Mars spacecraft first into an earth-bound orbit after a flight duration of 43 minutes.

The spacecraft will voyage for 300 days before it reaches the Martian orbit. The orbiter weighs about 1,350 kg and will carry five instruments to conduct a battery of remote-sensing experiments on the availability of methane on the Red Planet, its upper atmosphere, its surface features, mineralogy and so on.

This totally indigenous mission — the rocket and the five payloads come from various ISRO centres across the country — is the silver jubilee launch of the PSLV; that is, its 25th launch.

Dr. Radhakrishnan said a mission to Mars was more complex than India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission to the moon because of the distances involved. At its nearest, Mars is 55 million km away and it can be as far as 400 million km away when it is farthest from the Earth.

S. Arunan, Project Director, ISRO’s Mars orbiter, said charging of the lithium-ion batteries on board the Mars spacecraft was under way on Monday afternoon. Mr. Arunan explained that the lithium-ion batteries were needed as a stand-by on board the spacecraft till the orbiter’s solar panels were deployed.

“In case the demand for power goes beyond the solar panels’ capacity, say during the eclipse conditions, the batteries will come to our rescue. These batteries will then be made operational. They are like the UPS [uninterrupted power supply],” he added.

ISRO’s Mars orbiter builders studied the successes and failures of the American, the Russian and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) missions to Mars before they built the spacecraft and the mission profile it should follow.

Mr. Arunan said: “We compiled the data of the failed scenarios of all the erstwhile launches of the U.S. Russia and the ESA. These failures have been reported well by their Failure Analysis Committees (FAC). We went through these FAC reports so that we do not make the same mistakes in our mission.”


At its nearest, Mars is 55 million km away and it can be as far as 400 million km away






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