India’s Mars Obiter Mission lasts longer than expected

India’s first interplanetary mission, the Mars Orbiter Mission, has exhausted its official on-Mars life-span of six months on March 24, but the spacecraft continues to send data back to earth, according to ISRO.

The main factor determining how long the craft, which is currently in an orbit around Mars, could operate is fuel, but the spacecraft has been rather thrifty with its fuel consumption so far.

MOM Picture courtesy ISRO

MOM Picture courtesy ISRO

The MOM or Mars Orbiter Mission started off from India with 850 kg of fuel and burn around 338.9 kg in the launch phase itself. At the time of entry into Mars orbit in September last year, it consumed 249.5 kg.

At the end of the six month period on Mars, the spacecraft still had around 37 kg of fuel, and this is expected to help the craft send back an extra five ‘scientific payloads’ or data collections to the earth.

“The Spacecraft is in good health and all the five scientific payloads are providing valuable data about the Mars surface features and Martian atmosphere.

“The increased duration of observation of Mars by five scientific payloads will enhance the planetary science data. It would also enable coverage of Mars in different seasons,” ISRO added.

Besides being the first interplanetary expedition for India, the MOM is also the first Indian spacecraft to incorporate full scale on-board autonomy to overcome the long distances and the communication gaps due to non-visibility periods.

“The images of Mars captured by the Mars Colour Camera have been received and found to be of very good quality. The analysis of the data received from the scientific instruments is in progress,” ISRO said.

The total expenditure on the mission, including spacecraft, ground segment have been realised with a budget of Rs 450 Cr ($ 72 mln).