What is the current status of Mangalyaan

Flight to Mars: breakdown - but not an accident

Bangalore (India) - Around every second mission to Mars has failed so far. Friends of the Red Planet are therefore worried about the Indian space probe Mars Orbiter Mission, which was initially launched into Earth orbit last week from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in southern India. After the successful start, the space probe was in a deep orbit around the earth and should be brought to a higher orbit by a series of maneuvers. The plan is for it to finally leave Earth orbit towards the end of this month and embark on the long journey to the Red Planet. This Monday was the fourth of these maneuvers, which should increase the orbit of the Mars Orbiter mission at its highest point from 71,000 to 100,000 kilometers. However, the engines did not fire as desired, so that they only reached an altitude of 78,000 kilometers. The Indian space agency therefore had to carry out course corrections with new maneuvers. As it reports, the space probe was finally able to reach the planned orbit.

"The way to Mars is long and many maneuvers critical for the mission are still pending," says Pascal Lee from NASA's Mars Institute about the difficulties. The space probe, which also bears the Hindi name Mangalyaan ("Mars traveler"), is India's first mission to Mars. In view of the fact that around half of all Mars probes to date have failed, the implementation of this mission is being followed with great international interest. The scheduled arrival on the Red Planet is planned for September 2014.

India's space program has so far focused less on scientific and more on practical applications such as telecommunications and earth observation. With the Mars Orbiter Mission India wants to show that it is also capable of demanding scientific missions. So far, only the United States, Russia and Europe have managed to carry out successful missions to the Red Planet. The technological challenges are great and range from drive technology to navigation and communication in the depths of space to mission planning in the harsh conditions of space.

Mangalyaan has five scientific instruments on board, including a device for determining the methane concentration. This could help clear up the contradicting results of previous missions to Mars. Because it is not yet certain whether the methane on Mars comes from volcanic or possibly even organic sources.

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