After an amazing tour of Mars, India says the orbiter no longer has fuel

Zoom / A full disk image of Mars taken by the Mars Orbiter Mission.


Despite India’s modest achievements, India’s Mars rover mission is one of the most remarkable in 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 have done so before.

And perhaps most importantly, India has demonstrated that a robust and capable spacecraft can be developed on Mars with a small budget. Instead of costing hundreds of millions of dollars, the Mars mission was only developed around $25 million, through a process Indian officials described it In the name of “Economy Engineering”.

But all good things come to an end, and this weekend, the Indian space agency, ISRO, declared the mission “unrecoverable.” The update came after a one-day meeting to discuss the spacecraft and whether it could be rescued after contact with the rover was lost in April during a long eclipse when Mars moved between orbit and the sun.

“During the national meeting, ISRO discussed that the impulse must have been exhausted, and therefore, the desired position for sustainable energy generation cannot be achieved,” the space agency He said in an update published on Monday. “The spacecraft has been declared unrecoverable, and has reached the end of its life. The mission will ever be considered a remarkable technical and scientific achievement in the history of planetary exploration.”

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The probe definitely exceeded expectations. Originally designed for six months, it brought data back to Earth for nearly eight years.

Among her scientific contributions are regular images of the entire disk of Mars, in color, due to the spacecraft’s elliptical orbit. Most spacecraft in orbit around Mars spend their time relatively close to the planet, looking directly at the surface. The Mars Orbiter Mission also provided valuable data about the thin Martian atmosphere and the 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 long eclipse periods of up to seven hours. A lot of the spacecraft’s onboard propellant five years ago had to be spent repositioning the vehicle to survive these eclipses and ensure enough sunlight reached its solar panels.

After the success of the Mars Orbiter mission, India has allocated more resources to lunar and Mars missions. The country is planning several missions to the lunar surface, with the ultimate goal of returning samples. Another rover is planned around Mars within the next few years, to be followed by a rover during the second half of the 2020s.

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