Mangalyaan camera clicks away, hunt for methane in Mars next

Written by Johnson TA | Johnson TA | Bangalore | Updated: Sep 25 2014, 15:25pm hrs
Mars Orbiter MissionMangalyaan is circling in an orbit whose nearest point to Mars is at 421.7 km.
Over the next couple of weeks, ISRO will test and put to use the five scientific instruments it carried as a 15 kg payload on the Mangalyaan spacecraft. A Mars Color Camera has already kicked into action, clicking images of the surface of Mars at 8.30 am shortly after the spacecraft was captured into orbit. Scientists said the first images were received at mission control by noon; the data is under process.

Detection of methane using a sensor is one of the key objectives of the mission. The spacecraft has achieved a favourable position, ISRO officials said: it is circling in an orbit whose nearest point to Mars is at 421.7 km and farthest at 76,993.6 km. The spacecraft will take three earth days to circle Mars once.

The other instruments are Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer (MENCA), a TIR Spectrometer (TIS) and a Lyman-Alpha Photometer (LAP). These will be tested and deployed over the next week.

The primary objective of this first mission is technology that is how to reach there. We also will have scientific instruments to investigate the atmosphere of Mars, ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan had stated during the planning stage of the mission.

According to the Department of Space, the Indian initiative will demonstrate capability to reach the Martian atmosphere. It will bring strategic advantage to India in the international decision-making process on matters related to Mars.

The spacecraft has a predicted life span of six months and scientists are confident that the tenure will be completed on account of the availability of fuel. Indias maiden moon mission, Chandrayaan 1, suffered a premature end after systems developed heating problems.