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India’s Mars mission may last “many years,” ISRO chief


Bengaluru: The country’s low-cost Mars mission spacecraft that is in a rendezvous with the Red planet for an extended period has enough fuel for it to last “many years”, Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman Kiran Kumar said today.

“….now it will be surviving for many years,” Kumar told reporters here on the sidelines of Indian Institute of Science Alumni Global Conference 2015 ‘Science for Society’ here.

He said, “still about 45 kg of fuel is left; …we are hardly using the fuel, fuel requirement is very small.”

“Originally with the kind of fuel we had carried, we were not expecting that we will be able to complete the mission for more than six months,” he said.

Elaborating, he said right from launch till the spacecraft was inserted into the desired orbit, many difficulties could have been encountered “in which case we would have spent more fuel….but it didn’t happen right from the beginning through the whole process.”

The spacecraft’s life was extended for another six months in March due to surplus fuel.

Scripting space history, India on September 24 last successfully placed the low-cost Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft in orbit around the Mars in its very first attempt, breaking into an elite club.

ISRO had launched the spacecraft on its nine-month-long odyssey on a homegrown PSLV rocket from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on November 5, 2013 and it had escaped the earth’s gravitational field on December 1, 2013.

Kumar said “there was no untoward incidents, no failures; ….even when you launch you have to give some margin for launch error that also was not there. So we were able to save fuel right from beginning till insertion.”

“Now we have saved, almost 45 kg is there. It will last for many years,” he added. He however did not exactly specify how long the spacecraft’s life can be further extended.

Asked to specify the time frame, he said “we will go one step at a time. We had told the longest duration of gap of communication was this one (June 8-22). Now this we have survived. Next similar event will be two-and-half years later.”

Questioned whether it can last two-and-half years, he said “…it should.”

From June 8 to 22, the MOM was in “blackout” phase snapping communication with the satellite, as the sun had blocked Mars from the Earth. MOM during this period went into an “autonomous mode”.

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