Towards the end of September 2014, Bengaluru’s Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) headquarters was the most lively it had ever been. The mission control was hosting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had just won the general election.
Scientists were busy on their computers and consoles, but their attention was on Mars, approximately 115.33 million kilometers away. Mangalyaan, India’s maiden interplanetary mission, was about to reach its destination on the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM).
Mangalyaan conducted the difficult Martian Orbit Insertion, considered one of the most difficult maneuvers for a spacecraft. Several minutes later, the probe nailed the tricky maneuver amid roars of claps back on Earth, making India the fourth nation in the world to launch a mission to another planet, as well as survive the harshness of space and the nerve-wracking orbit insertion process.
Eight years later, the mission has finally come to an end. On Tuesday, Isro announced its most successful mission, Mangalyaan, was “non-recoverable.”
MARS WAS BRINGED TO EARTH BY MARS
MOM was launched in 2013 with five instruments aimed at studying the Red Planet’s surface features, morphology, atmosphere, and exosphere. During its eight years of operation, the probe unravelled the compositions of several gases in the Martian exosphere. The altitude at which the atmosphere transitions from a carbon dioxide-rich to an atomic oxygen-rich regime was quantified.
During the mission, the probe discovered suprathermal Argon-40 atoms in the Martian exosphere, revealing the dynamics of dust storms. MOM observations were used to estimate the atmospheric optical depth and studies reported the presence of lee-wave clouds above the southern wall of Valles Marineris. Deimos, one of Mars’ moons, was photographed for the first time by the probe.
Indian’s maiden Mars mission used its suite of instruments to capture the full disc image of the Red Planet and construct its atlas with the help of the mission’s colour camera. Furthermore, it captured the time-variation of the Martian polar ice caps.
To study the Solar Corona, Mangalyaan looked beyond Mars. Solar conjunction allowed Indian scientists to study the atmosphere of the Sun, which remains a mystery to this day.