India's Mars Probe Departs Earth for Trek to Red Planet

India's Mars Probe Departs Earth for Trek to Red Planet

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) successfully fired its engine for 23 minutes today, November 30 Eastern Standard Time (EST;  December 1 Indian Standard Time), to begin its 10 month trek to Mars.

MOM, or Mangalyaan-1 as it is sometimes called, has been circling Earth since launch on November 5.  A series of engine burns gradually raised the orbit until it was in the proper position for trans-Mars injection (TMI) — the engine burn conducted today.

Arrival at Mars is scheduled for September 2014.  MOM will enter an elliptical, rather than circular, orbit around Mars that is 350 x 80,000 kilometers.  MOM carries five scientific instruments, including one that will search for methane in the atmosphere, but is primarily a technology test to demonstrate that India can build and launch a spacecraft that attains Martian orbit.   If successful, it will be the first Asian country to do so.   Japan’s attempt to place a spacecraft (Nozomi) in orbit around Mars failed.  China had a small orbiter (Yinghuo-1) on Russia’s doomed Phobos-Grunt mission.  

Europe, Russia/Soviet Union and the United States have successfully placed spacecraft in Martian orbit.  The U.S. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Odyssey spacecraft, and Europe’s Mars Express, are currently operating there, and NASA’s MAVEN is on the way (it will arrive at Mars about the same time as MOM).    Only the United States has successfully landed spacecraft on the surface.  Two are currently operating:  Opportunity and Curiosity.  Several other U.S. and Russian/Soviet Mars probes, and one other European Mars spacecraft, failed.  

Wary planetary scientists joke about the Galactic Ghoul, a monster inhabiting space that eats Mars-bound spacecraft.  Time will tell if MOM avoids it.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.