India’s low-budget Mars orbiter sends back first photo (Wired UK)


The first shot of Mars from India’s Mars Orbiter Mission

ISRO


India has won Asia’s space race
to the Red Planet after its super-low-budget Mangalyaan spacecraft
sent back photos from Mars’ orbit. All for less than the cost of
last year’s Hollywood hit, Gravity.

The photos, showing Mars‘ crater-pocked
surface, were taken from a height of 4.5 miles (7.3 kilometres)
above the orange dust of our nearest neighbour. Beamed back to the
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) yesterday evening, the
country’s space agency posted the first of its pictures to Twitter, along with the message: “The view is
nice up here.” 

The fruits of Mangalyaan’s ten-month journey (the shortest time
to cover the 666 million km distance) are immeasurable for the
country, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed last night.
“History has been created today,” the country’s leader said in a
speech at the Bangalore command centre of the ISRO. “We have
dared to reach out into the unknown and have achieved the
near-impossible.”

Near-impossible is right, with the Mars Orbiter Mission’s (MOM)
budget a mere £45 million, less than the budget of Alfonso Cuarón’s
Gravity (estimated at $100 million) and just over a
tenth of Nasa’s £412 million Maven Mars
mission, which arrived at the planet on Sunday. India has shown
that space exploration need not bankrupt nations.

MOM puts India in an elite group of space agencies with the US,
Russia and Europe being the only groups to successfully initiate
orbit. A Chinese probe destined for Mars in 2011 sadly failed to
break Earth’s orbit during a botched Russian launch, leaving the
way open for India’s shoestring operation to take Asia’s glory.

The spacecraft has five scientific instruments on-board, with
which the ISRO hopes to gather data on Mars’ surface and scan its
atmosphere for chemical methane over the next six months of
orbit before running out of fuel. Prime Minister Modi’s pride at
his country’s accomplishment is well placed, and sure to be a
talking point when he makes a state trip to the US tomorrow.

Nasa has already extended its congratulations to the ISRO,
as Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement: “It
was an impressive engineering feat, and we welcome India to the
family of nations studying another facet of the Red Planet.”

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25 September 2014 | 12:39 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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