Originally meant for a lifespan of six months after entry into Mars orbit, ISRO spacecraft MOM has outlived the lifespan after March 24, 2015 and the Indian space agency is confident now that the orbiter can continue for few more years.
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), which was under the solar conjunction till June 22, came out of the shadow of the Sun and began to send signals, confirmed ISRO on Friday. Beyond that, ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said, “It now has enough fuel to last a few more years.”
The solar conjunction blocked the orbiter mission from the earth, remaining incommunicado for 15 days from June 8 to 22, the same way NASA mission MAVEN too faced communication blackout. Currently, these are the two orbiters around the Red Planet.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Global Alumni Meet of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, Dr. Kiran Kumar said the MOM will be back to its original status in few days. In fact, the MOM has finished its 100th orbit on Thursday, making it one of the longer elliptically orbiting missions around a planet.
So far, the Malgalyaan mission has sent 400 images of the Red Planet, some of them crystal clear and more detailed surface replicas on Mars. Now, the images will also help assess different seasons of Mars, Mr. Kumar said.
While the solar eclipse or conjunction showed the “autonomy” of the satellite, it gives enough confidence for ISRO’s future mission to the Red Planet, said Dr. Kumar.
On SAARC satellite mission conference, Kumar said Pakistan representatives had aprticipated and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) satellite on the lines of the ESA or European Space agency.
It would kick off new cooperation in the space, if not on the ground for SAARC countries and the mission will be launched in December 2016 after 18 months from the date of approval.
Pakistan was, however, wary that the communications satellite may give an upper hand to its arch rival India and was hesitant to attend the meeting early this week. Now that it has attended the conference, ISRO efforts, inspired by PM Narendra Modi’s suggestion last year, may take off.