Despite its modest overall achievements, India’s Mars Orbiter mission is one of the most notable successes of the era of modern spaceflight. Launched in 2013, it was the first Mars mission built by an Asian country to reach orbit around the red planet – only the United States, the Soviet Union and the European Space Agency had done so previously.
And perhaps most importantly, India has proven that a durable and capable Mars spacecraft can be developed on a shoestring budget. Instead of costing hundreds of millions of dollars, the Mars mission was developed for just around $25 million, through a process described by Indian officials as “frugal engineering”.
But all good things must come to an end, and this weekend India’s space agency, ISRO, announced the mission was “unrecoverable”. The update came following a day-long meeting to discuss the spacecraft and the possibility of recovering it after communication with the vehicle was lost in April during a long eclipse when Mars collapsed. moved between the orbiter and the Sun.
“During the national meet, ISRO deliberated that the thruster had to be depleted, and therefore the desired attitude could not be achieved for sustained power output,” the space agency said in an update. update released on Monday. “The spacecraft was declared non-salvageable and has witnessed its end of life. The mission will forever be considered a remarkable technological and scientific feat in the history of planetary exploration.”
The orbiter most certainly exceeded expectations. Originally designed for a six-month lifespan, it sent data back to Earth for almost eight years.
Among his scientific contributions were regular images of the full disk of Mars, in color, due to the spacecraft’s elliptical orbit. Most spacecraft orbiting Mars spend their time relatively close to the planet, staring straight at the surface. The Mars Orbiter mission also provided valuable data on the thin Martian atmosphere and observed dust storms. Indian officials said more than 7,200 users have registered to freely download data collected by the mission.
During the meeting, scientists and engineers discussed the challenge of surviving increasingly longer eclipse periods of up to seven hours. Much of the propellant aboard the spacecraft had to be spent five years ago repositioning the vehicle to survive those eclipses and ensure enough sunlight reached its solar panels.
Following the success of the Mars Orbiter mission, India has committed more resources to lunar and Mars missions. The country is planning several missions to the lunar surface, with the eventual aim of returning samples. Another Martian orbiter is planned in the next few years, followed by a rover in the second half of the 2020s.