Mangalyaan : The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)

India sent a spacecraft called Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) commonly known as Mangalyaan to Mars on November 5th, 2013. It was India’s first trip to another planet! The spacecraft was launched using a special rocket called PSLV-C25. India is now the fourth country to successfully send a spacecraft to orbit around Mars. Although Mangalyaan was designed to work for only 6 months, it has been circling Mars for 8 years already! The mission has been very successful.  The last communication with the Mangalyaan was in April, 2022 and thereafter no communication has been established. 

Mission Objectives

The main goals of the Mangalyaan are to create and launch a special spacecraft called a Mars Orbiter that can work on its own during the journey to Mars and while orbiting Mars. The spacecraft is equipped with five scientific tools that will help scientists learn more about the features, shape, minerals, and atmosphere of Mars.

Scientific Payloads

Scientists are very interested in Mars because they want to learn more about how planets change over time and if there could be life on other planets. We used to think Mars was warm and wet, but now we know it’s actually dry and has a thin atmosphere. We’re still trying to figure out how this happened. To help with this, the Mangalyaan used five special tools to take pictures and collect information about Mars. These tools are called Mars Color Camera (MCC), Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS), Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA), and Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP).

1. Mars Colour Camera

The Mars Colour Camera is a versatile and multi-purpose snap shot camera with R-G-B Bayer pattern to map various morphological features on Mars and return visual images of Mars and its environs. Besides providing context information for other payloads, MCC is also expected to observe and help in furthering our understanding of events like dust storms, dust devils etc. that are known to occur in Mars. The highly elliptical orbit of the current mission allows imaging of localized scenes at high spatial resolution as well as provides a synoptic view of the full globe. This payload is developed by Space Application Centre Ahmedabad.

Mangalyaan

The main objective of the Mars Colour camera therefore is:

    1. To map various morphological features on Mars with varying resolution and scales in the elliptical orbit.
    2. To provide context information for the other science payloads.

The salient features of this instrument are given below: –

Parameter Value
Resolution 19.5 m @ Periareion
Frame Size 40 km x 40 km@ Periareion Full Mars disc from 63000 km to Apoareion
Spectral region 0.4 µm – 0.7 µm R-G-B (Bayer Pattern)

 

2. Methane Sensor for Mars

The Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM) is a differential radiometer based on Fabry-Perot Etalon filters operating in the short wave infrared (SWIR) region. It measures solar radiance in two SWIR channels. There is absorption by CH4 in the first channel (methane channel) whereas no absorption in the second spectral channel (reference channel). So the differential signal gives a measure of column amount of CH4. It can measure CH4 concentration in the Martian atmosphere with few parts-per-billion accuracy. By scanning the scene from apoareion, MSM can map the spatial distribution of methane. The temporal and spatial variation of methane derived from MSM data may provide some insight regarding its origin; whether it is biogenic or abiogenic. This payload is developed by Space Application Centre Ahmedabad.

Mangalyaan

The Primary science objective of this payload is to detect and measure methane concentration in Martian atmosphere (if it does exist) under clear sky conditions. Other studies which are possible are:

  1. Measure spatial variations in CO2 column density / pressure to understand dynamics of Martian atmosphere.
  2. Measure reflectance of Martian surface in the spectral range 6030-6090 cm-1.

 

The instrument features are given below: –

Parameter Value
Resolution 258m @ Periareion (@372km)
Swath 4.4 km @ Periareion, 948 km @ Apoareion
Spectral Region 1640 – 1660 nm
Detector InGaAs, 85µm pixels, 8 channels for CH4 and 8 channels for reference

 

3. Thermal IR Imaging Spectrometer

The Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer is a grating based spectrometer which will measure the thermal emission from Martian surface. The data acquired by TIS will be processed and analysed in order to:

  • Map temperature of the Martian surface
  • Study the composition and mineralogy of Mars.

Mangalyaan

This spectrometer operates in the thermal infrared (TIR) region (7 micron to 13 micron). TIS has been configured with an un-cooled micro-bolometer array that saves significantly in terms of weight and power when compared to a cooled IR detector. This payload is developed by Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad.

The instrument features are:

Parameter Value
Resolution 258m @ Periareion (@372km)
Coverage 41 km x 258 m @ Periareion 8875 km x 55 km @ Apoareion
Spectral Region 7µm – 13µm, 12 bands
Spectral resolution ~500 nm (12 bands)

 

4. Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser

The main scientific objective of the Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA) is to study the neutral composition and density distribution of the Martian exosphere and to study its radial, diurnal, and possibly seasonal variations. This would help in understanding the escape of the Martian atmosphere.

MENCA, a quadrupole mass spectrometer, consists of a filament, detectors and associated electronics system. The detectors being used in MENCA are Channel Electron Multiplier (CEM) and Faraday Cup (FC). A suitable combination of Radio Frequency and DC voltages are applied to the alternate pairs of quadrupole rods to accomplish the mass separation and thereby the determination of partial pressure of species. Also, MENCA has an in-built pressure gauge for the measurement of total pressure. In addition to acquiring the mass spectra in a specified mass range (which can be varied), the instrument has a provision to study the time-evolution of a set of selectable species in the trend mode of operation. The dynamic range of the instrument is in the order of 1010.

Uniqueness

The Mangalyaan moves in a curved path around Mars, which allows its camera (MCC) to take pictures of the whole planet when it’s far away and more detailed pictures when it’s closer. This is because the spacecraft follows an elliptical orbit. The mission also gave scientists their first-ever look at the far side of Deimos, one of the moons of Mars.

Achievements

The Mars Colour Camera is a special tool on board the Mangalyaan that has taken more than 1100 pictures of Mars. Scientists have used these images to create a “Mars Atlas”. The mission has also published more than 35 research papers in scientific journals.

India was able to successfully send the Mangalyaan to Mars on its first try, and at a cost of only 450 crores rupees. This has impressed people around the world and shows that India is capable of exploring space in a cost-effective way. This achievement could lead to more opportunities for businesses in the space industry, like launching rockets and selling satellite images.

The Mangalyaan is something that the people of India are very proud of. It has caught the attention of students, the public, the media, and scientists from around the world. The mission has especially inspired younger people to learn more about space and to keep the excitement going.

Major Science Results

Scientists have studied the solar coronal dynamics of the sun during the post-maxima phase of the solar cycle 24 using S-band radio signals from the Mangalyaan. This research was published in the MNRAS journal in 2022.

During a global dust storm on Mars in 2020, there was an enhanced escape of Martian atmosphere. This was discovered through research published in the JGR-Planets journal.

In 2017, the Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA) detected ‘hot’ Argon in the exosphere of Mars. This observation was made while Mars was at perihelion.

MENCA also made a new discovery in 2016, showing that the abundance of Oxygen was greater than that of Carbon-Dioxide at an altitude of around 270 ±10 km during the perihelion evening hours. This research was published in the GRL journal.

By using the Mars Colour Camera (MCC), scientists were able to estimate the Atmospheric Optical Depth (AOD) and discovered the presence of lee-wave clouds above the southern wall of Valles Marineris. This research was published in the Icarus journal in 2015.

The scientific analysis of data from the Mars Orbiter spacecraft is still ongoing. The scientific data is archived at the ISSDC and is available to user communities.

Mangalyaan Images

Full disk image of Mars taken from Mangalyaan.

Mangalyaan

Mangalyaan UPSC

What does the acronym MOM stand for?

a) Mars Orbital Mission

b) Martian Observation Mission

c) Mars Orbiter Mission

d) Martian Orbital Mission

 

What was the main goal of India’s Mangalyaan?

a) To explore the features of Mars’ surface

b) To study the atmosphere of Mars

c) To search for signs of life on Mars

d) All of the above

 

Which rocket was used to launch the Mangalyaan?

a) GSLV-F10

b) PSLV-C25

c) PSLV-C37

d) GSLV Mk III

 

How long was the Mangalyaan designed to work for?

a) 3 months

b) 6 months

c) 1 year

d) 2 years

 

What are the names of the five scientific tools used by the Mangalyaan?

a) Mars Rover, Lunar Orbiter, Venus Probe, ExoMars, Juno

b) Mars Color Camera, Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer, Methane Sensor for Mars, Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser, Lyman Alpha Photometer

c) Kepler Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Spitzer Space Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope, James Webb Space Telescope

d) Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, Parker Solar Probe

 

What is the main objective of the Mars Colour Camera?

a) To map various morphological features on Mars with varying resolution and scales in the elliptical orbit

b) To study the temperature of the Martian surface

c) To measure the methane concentration in the Martian atmosphere

d) To study the mineral composition of Mars

 

What is the primary objective of the Methane Sensor for Mars?

a) To detect and measure methane concentration in the Martian atmosphere

b) To map the spatial distribution of water on Mars

c) To study the atmospheric pressure of Mars

d) To measure the reflectance of the Martian surface in the spectral range 6030-6090 cm-1

 

Which instrument will map the temperature of the Martian surface?

a) Mars Colour Camera

b) Methane Sensor for Mars

c) Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer

d) Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser

 

What is the main objective of the Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser?

a) To study the neutral composition and density distribution of the Martian exosphere

b) To measure the reflectance of the Martian surface

c) To map the spatial distribution of methane on Mars

d) To study the temperature of the Martian surface

 

Which spectral region does the Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer operate in?

a) 0.4 µm – 0.7 µm

b) 1640 – 1660 nm

c) 7µm – 13µm

d) 6030-6090 cm-1

 

FAQ

Q. Is Mangalyaan 1 still active?

A. No. Mangalyaan was only supposed to work for six months, but it actually worked for eight years and found out many important things about Mars and the Sun. Unfortunately, it stopped sending information back in April 2022 because it ran out of fuel and couldn’t point in the right direction to get power. The people in charge decided that it can’t be fixed and it has reached the end of its life.

Q. Have we lost contact with Mangalyaan?

A. Yes. Mangalyaan was only supposed to work for six months, but it actually worked for eight years and found out many important things about Mars and the Sun. Unfortunately, it stopped sending information back in April 2022 because it ran out of fuel and couldn’t point in the right direction to get power. The people in charge decided that it can’t be fixed and it has reached the end of its life.

Q. Was Mangalyaan 2 successful?

A. Mangalyaan 2 is yet to be launched. The ISRO is planning to launch it in 2024.

Q. Was Mangalyaan 1 successful?

A. Yes. The mission was very impressive and will be remembered as a big accomplishment in exploring space.

Q. Who is the 1st country to reach Mars?

A. Soviet Union

Q. Has India landed on Mars?

A. No, not yet.

Q. Did India go to Mars first?

A. No India is the Fourth Country.

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