A Journey To Mars

Although there has already been several pictures of the surface of Mars taken by NASA, the journey to Mars has been quite a challenge. This is due to financial issues, time problems and many other factors, which resulted in only three space agencies successfully reaching Mars before the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). What makes ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) so different from others? Well, ISRO is not only the first space agency in Asia to successfully orbit Mars, it also required the least amount of funding. ISRO was also different compared to the other space agencies worldwide because they were successful on their first try.

This project was successful not only because it contributed to the economical growth of the country but also managed to boost India’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) status worldwide. The total cost of MOM is $70 million and is known to be the cheapest inter-planetary mission since the first Martian exploration began. MOM is also known as Mangalyaan. The word Mangalyaan was derived from India’s oldest language, Sanskrit. Mangalyaan means ‘Mars Craft’. 

The primary objective of MOM is to showcase India’s launch systems, ability to build spacecrafts and operation capabilities. The NASA and ISRO have a partnership that connects these two space agencies together to share investigated results, statistics and information. “The signing of these two documents reflects the strong commitment NASA and ISRO have to advancing science and improving life on Earth,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, in a NASA statement.

The MOM was launched on 5th November 2013 and landed on the surface of Mars on 24 September 2014. It is an orbital mission therefore its sole purpose is to orbit around Mars. It is currently in orbit and in full operation. Mangalyaan was a bold gamble that India took and thankfully it had worked successfully. The former head of ISRO, G.Madhavan Nair told the Science Magazine that “It would be a national waste” following the announcement of the mission by the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his independence speech in 2012. 

According to Mr. Nair, the project and objective of MOM which was to orbit Mars would have kept MOM away from the planet most of the time. Mr Nair thought that it’s payload was too small to study Mars. In addition, he said that instead of a Mars mission, ISRO should have focussed on GSLV. This could have developed a stronger mission and augmented India’s future space efforts. There were also criticisms that the MOM was launched in haste to cover up for the several failures of the GSLV. 

GSLV is short for Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. It is a disposable launch system operated by the ISRO and was developed to allow India to launch its satellites independently. GLSV has experienced 8 failed launches since 2001, including its most recent launch that occurred this year.

In conclusion, India has shown to be quite advanced compared to other space agencies and is rated amongst the top of the world due to this simple yet outstanding and magnificent feat of having a successful orbital mission around Mars on the first try with the least amount of funding needed out of all the projects that involved interplanetary missions revolving around Mars.

Written by Grace Sim and Aishath Zahanath


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