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Mangalyaan Reaches First Distance Milestone On Route To Mars
by Morris Jones
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Dec 07, 2013

Mangalyaan is in good health. That's a good sign for the future of the mission, as it shows that MOM is suitable for interplanetary space. The mission has also had luck on its side. So far, our Sun has been fairly well-behaved. There have been no particle ejections flung outwards towards the spacecraft.

Indian's first Mars Orbiter Mission - Mangalyaan - might be a long way from its target, but it has already gone further than any spacecraft India has previously launched.

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is now in interplanetary space - or deep space. With spacecraft conditions all nominal, Mangalyaan has now gone far beyond the orbit of the Moon and outside the influence of the Earth's magnetic field. These are the high seas of the solar system, where other objects are scarce and conditions can be tricky.

Most spacecraft launched from Earth never go further than the geostationary orbit belt, roughly 36,000 kilometres above the equator. India has previously gone beyond this mark only once, when the first Indian deep space mission - Chandrayan - flew to the Moon.

The basic design of the Chandrayan spacecraft bus was replicated for the MOM, but this mission features a larger antenna for communication at interplanetary distances.

What will happen in the months ahead? MOM is in its "cruise" phase, where the momentum of the thruster firings that took it away from Earth will keep it traveling through the vacuum of space.

There will be minor course corrections to ensure that it stays on target, but MOM is essentially flying like a hypersonic bullet. The other major influence on its trajectory is the gravity of the Sun. MOM is in solar orbit like a planet, but heading from one large object orbiting the Sun towards another one.

The spacecraft is in good health. That's a good sign for the future of the mission, as it shows that MOM is suitable for interplanetary space. The mission has also had luck on its side. So far, our Sun has been fairly well-behaved. There have been no particle ejections flung outwards towards the spacecraft.

Mission controllers will be monitoring the health and trajectory of the spacecraft rigorously. The mission has many challenges ahead of it, but it is making steady progress. Arrival at Mars is slated for September 2014.

Entering orbit at Mars will be the next big task facing this mission. If the spacecraft continues to perform at the same level, it should accomplish this task with no serious problems.

Dr Morris Jones is an Australian space analyst who has reported for on the various Asian space programs since 1999. Email Replace NOSPAM with @ to send email. Dr Jones will answer media inquiries.


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