After a spectacular run on Mars, India said it was running out of fuel in orbit

After a spectacular run on Mars, India said it was running out of fuel in orbit
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Full disk image of Mars taken by the Mars Orbiter Mission.
To enlarge / Full disk image of Mars taken by the Mars Orbiter Mission.


Despite its modest overall achievements, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission is one of the most remarkable achievements of the modern spaceflight era. Launched in 2013, it was the first Mars mission launched by an Asian country to reach orbit around the red planet – previously only the United States, the Soviet Union and the European Space Agency had done so.

And perhaps most importantly, India has proven that a sustainable, capable Mars spacecraft can be built on a shoestring budget. Instead of costing hundreds of millions of dollars, the Mars mission was designed through a process for just $25 million. Illustrated by Indian officials as “lean engineering”.

But all good things come to an end, and this weekend, the Indian space agency ISRO announced that the mission was “non-recoverable.” The update came after a day-long meeting to discuss the spacecraft and whether it could be rescued after the vehicle lost contact during a long eclipse as it passed between the Mars orbiter and the Sun in April.

“During the national meeting, ISRO discussed that the propellant liquid is running out and hence the desired attitude for continuous power generation cannot be achieved,” the space agency said. said in an update released on Monday. “The spacecraft was declared unrecoverable and reached the end of its life. This mission will always be regarded as a remarkable technological and scientific achievement in the history of planetary exploration.”

Orbiter exceeded expectations. Originally intended for a six-month lifetime, it returned data to Earth for about eight years.

Among his scientific contributions were regular color images of the complete disk of Mars, according to the elliptical orbit of the spacecraft. Most spacecraft in orbit around Mars spend their time relatively close to the planet, looking directly at the surface. The Mars Orbiter Mission also provided valuable information about the thin Martian atmosphere and observed dust storms. More than 7,200 users have registered to freely download data collected by the mission, Indian officials said.

During the meeting, scientists and engineers discussed the challenge of surviving eclipse periods lasting up to seven hours. Much of the spacecraft’s on-board fuel had to be used up five years ago to reposition the vehicle to escape these eclipses and ensure enough sunlight reaches its solar panels.

After the success of the Mars Orbiter Mission, India allocated more funds for the Moon and Mars missions. The country is planning several missions to the lunar surface with the aim of returning samples. In the next few years, another Mars orbiter is planned to be followed by a rover in the second half of the 2020s.

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