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Indian orbiter MOM still on lookout for methane on Mars


Mysuru (Karnataka): The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), India’s first interplanetary mission is still groping around the red planet to locate methane gas in its atmosphere, a senior space scientist said on Monday.

“The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is yet to detect methane gas or find the exact source of it. I don’t have an update on how much of science we have been able to find out,” Indian space agency’s former director S.K. Shivakumar told IANS at the 103rd Indian Science Congress here.

Though India was the first country whose maiden space probe was the first to showcase stunning pictures of the red planet in its very first attempt on September 24, 2014, the 475kg orbiter with five scientific instruments on board is yet to relay substantial data or information on Mars’ origin and evolution in the solar system.

“Being a technology person, I don’t know what is its (MOM) current status,” he said on the sidelines of a plenary session on ‘Space Science, Technology, and Applications’, on the second day of the five-day annual event at Manasagangotri campus of University of Mysore.

The Rs.450-crore mission was launched on November 5, 2013, from spaceport Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, about 80km northeast of Chennai, and reached the Martian orbit after a 10-month voyage through the inter-planetary space.

“As of Sunday evening and Monday morning, the orbiter is doing well, going around Mars, taking a different set of pictures and whatever is required with its other payloads,” Shivakumar said.

The spacecraft was successful in surviving a solar eclipse and a 15-day blackout in June last year. It was under solar conjunction from June 8 after it went behind the sun and away from the earth due to a solar eclipse, which occurs once in 26 months over the red planet. The spacecraft is still elliptically orbiting around Mars even 28 months after it entered the Martian orbit.

“As the orbiter still has 37kg of fuel, it will continue to orbit around Mars as long as it can. Though built for six months, it is still alive and going on and on,” Shivakumar added.

Though the orbiter’s communication system was disrupted by the sun’s corona (outer atmosphere) during the fortnight-long eclipse, it got activated and its scientific instruments resumed their activities after being on autonomous mode.

Orbiter takes 3.2 earth days or 72 hours, 51 minutes and 51 seconds to go around Mars once while orbiting at a distance of 500 km nearest and over 80,000 km at the farthest from its surface. (IANS)

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NASA’s Curiosity Rover Tests New Drill Method On Mars

It now offers Curiosity a vital sense of touch, preventing the drill bit from drifting sideways too much and getting stuck in a rock

This year NASA discovered few earth like planets. Wikimedia Commons
This year NASA discovered few earth like planets. Wikimedia Commons
  • NASA’s Rover conducted new drill methods on Mars
  • This can help NASA get samples from Mars
  • After this, they can start a more comprehensive study of the planet

NASA’s Curiosity rover has conducted a new drill method on Mars, marking the first operation of the rover’s drill since a motor problem began acting up more than a year ago.

ISS is aIt is the first ever drilling attempt on Mars. Wikimedia Commons permanent base for astronauts stationed in the outer sky. Wikimedia Commons
It is the first ever drilling attempt on Mars. Wikimedia Commons

This early test produced a hole about a one-centimetre deep at a target called Lake Orcadie — not enough for a full scientific sample, but enough to validate that the new method works mechanically, NASA said on Wednesday.

This was just the first in what will be a series of tests to determine how well the new drill method can collect samples. If this drill had achieved sufficient depth to collect a sample, the team would have begun testing a new sample delivery process, ultimately delivering to instruments inside the rover.

Also Read: NASA’s Kepler Discovers Nearly 100 New Exoplanets

Curiosity has used its drill to collect samples 15 times since landing in 2012. Then, in December of 2016, a key part of the drill stopped working.

If the previous method was like a drill press, holding the drill bit steady as it extends into a surface, it is now more freehand. The rover is using its entire arm to push the drill forward, re-centring itself while taking measurements with a force sensor. That sensor was originally included to stop the rover’s arm if it received a high-force jolt, NASA said.

It now offers Curiosity a vital sense of touch, preventing the drill bit from drifting sideways too much and getting stuck in a rock.

This ice which was found can help scientists understand the climate history of Mars. IANS
This will help NASA study Mars more comprehensively. IANS

“We’re now drilling on Mars more like the way you do at home,” said Steven Lee, Deputy Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

“Humans are pretty good at re-centring the drill, almost without thinking about it. Programming Curiosity to do this by itself was challenging — especially when it wasn’t designed to do that,” Lee added. IANS

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