Mangalyaan — the country’s first spacecraft to Mars — will complete its six-month mission next week on March 24, but will remain operational even after its assignment duration expires.
Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chairman Dr Kiran Kumar told HT the mission would technically end next week. “The spacecraft will remain operational even after that as there is no fuel constraint. This will help us delve deeper into the seasons and climate on Mars. We have been able to capture some beautiful images of Mars and have got ample data. Analysis of the data is being done and once this is final, it will be made public,” Kumar said.
On September 24 last year, India created history by becoming the first country to succeed on its first Mars mission when the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) slipped into the orbit of the Red Planet after a few nail-biting moments.
The country joined the United States, European Space Agency and the former Soviet Union in the elite club of Martian explorers with the MOM. The five payloads on the spacecraft were scheduled to carry out experiments for six months.
The Isro chief said a lot would depend on the blackout period for Mars in June. “The next challenge for the spacecraft will be in June next year when all three – Mars, Earth and Sun-will be in one line. There will be no communication (blackout period) with the spacecraft for nearly 14 days.”
The blackout would be experienced between June 8 and 22 as the Sun would come between Earth and Mars. During the blackout period, the spacecraft would be in fully autonomous mode and no data would be transmitted to or from it.
Isro is planning the launch of the fourth out of seven in the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) series of satellites after IRNSS-1A, IRNSS-1B and IRNSS-IC. The satellite would provide navigational services. The launch, earlier planned for March 9, had to be postponed after it was found that one of the telemetry transmitters was not working properly.