Wednesday December 13, 2017

ISRO’s Mars Orbiter survives 15-day blackout in Martian atmosphere

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Bengaluru: India’s maiden Mars Orbiter Mission survived a 15-days long solar eclipse (June 8-22) and emitted signals back to earth, the space agency chief said on Friday.

“Our Orbiter spacecraft has survived the blackout in the Martian atmosphere when sun came in between the red planet and the earth and was cut off from us. Coming out of the eclipse phase, it is communicating signals,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar told reporters here.

The 1,340 kg spacecraft was under solar conjunction from June 8 when it went behind the sun and away from the earth due to solar eclipse, which occurs once in 26 months over the red planet.

“The Orbiter’s communication signals that were disrupted by the sun’s corona (outer atmosphere) during the fortnight-long eclipse got activated and its five payloads (scientific instruments) resumed activities after being on autonomous mode,” Kiran Kumar said on the margins of a a global conference on “Science for Society” by alumni of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

Noting the spacecraft had withstood a crucial phase of nine months after reaching the Martian orbit, he said that the Orbiter would continue to spin around the red planet for years as it had saved enough fuel since its November 5, 2013 launch from Sriharikota spaceport.

“Though the Orbiter’s initial lifespan was intended to last six months after entering the Martian orbit (on September 24, 2014), it has been extended since March and is likely to survive many years as it is hardly using any fuel,” he said.

Lauding the scientists for the mission’s success, he said that from the Orbiter’s launch till its insertion after a 10-month voyage through the inter-planetary space, the mission did not encounter any untoward incident or deviation, which otherwise would have consumed precious fuel though provision was made for such occurrence.

Noting that the mission’s objective of exploration would continue till the spacecraft survives, Kumar said that the Orbiter had completed about 100 revolutions around the planet and its five experiments had transmitted enormous data to the space agency’s deep space network near here.

“As a bonus of its extended life, we will collect more data and information on the seasons on Mars and its images. Our payloads have found out many things during the last six-nine months, which are being validated,” he added.

The Orbiter’s Mars Colour Camera had transmitted about 400 images of the red planet till date to the space agency’s telemetry tracking and command network (Istrac) in the city, while its spectrometer, Lyman Alpha photometer, thermal infrared imaging spectrometer and methane sensor have relayed data of their findings.

India created history by becoming the first country to have a craft enter the Martian orbit in maiden attempt after a nine-month voyage through the inter-planetary space.

It also became the first Asian country to have entered Mars’ sphere of influence (gravity) in maiden attempt, as a similar mission by China failed to succeed in 2011.

The Rs.450 crore ($70 mn) Mars mission was launched November 5, 2013 on board a polar rocket. It had 855 kg fuel but consumed about 800 kg since then for its orbit-raising exercises undertaken during its nine-month long journey and on entering the Martian sphere.

Scientists at the mission control centre here monitor its orbital movement and check health of its instruments round-the- clock.

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 500km nearest and over 80,000km farthest from its surface. (IANS)

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NASA’s plan on getting Martian samples to Earth

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NASA brings Martian samples to Earth from Mars.
NASA brings Martian samples to Earth from Mars. IANS
  • NASA plans on getting Martian samples to Earth from Mars
  • To know if life existed anywhere other than on Earth

Washington, Dec 11: (IANS) NASA has revealed how it plans to bring back Martian samples to Earth for the first time with the help of its next rover mission to the Red Planet, Mars 2020.

After landing on Mars, a drill will capture rock cores, while a caching system with a miniature robotic arm will seal up these samples. Then, they will be deposited on the Martian surface for possible pickup by a future mission, NASA said.

“Whether life ever existed beyond Earth is one of the grand questions humans seek to answer,” said Ken Farley of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“What we learn from the samples collected during this mission has the potential to address whether we’re alone in the universe,” Farley said.

Mars 2020 relies heavily on the system designs and spare hardware previously created for Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover, which landed in 2012.

Despite its similarities to Mars Science Laboratory, the new mission has very different goals – it will seek signs of ancient life by studying the terrain that is now inhospitable, but once held flowing rivers and lakes, more than 3.5 billion years ago.

To achieve these new goals, the rover has a suite of cutting-edge science instruments.

It will seek out biosignatures on a microbial scale.

An X-ray spectrometer will target spots as small as a grain of table salt, while an ultraviolet laser will detect the “glow” from excited rings of carbon atoms.

A ground-penetrating radar will look under the surface of Mars, mapping layers of rock, water and ice up to 10 metres deep, depending on the material.

The rover is getting some upgraded Curiosity hardware, including colour cameras, a zoom lens and a laser that can vaporise rocks and soil to analyse their chemistry, NASA said.

The mission will also undertake a marathon sample hunt.

The rover team will try to drill at least 20 rock cores, and possibly as many as 30 or 40, for possible future return to Earth, NASA said.

Site selection has been another milestone for the mission. In February, the science community narrowed the list of potential landing sites from eight to three.

All three sites have rich geology and may potentially harbour signs of past microbial life. But a final landing site decision is still more than a year away.

“In the coming years, the 2020 science team will be weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each of these sites,” Farley said.

“It is by far the most important decision we have ahead of us,” Farley said.

The mission is set to launch in July/August 2020. (IANS)

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India set for another lunar expedition in early 2018

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lunar expedition
lunar expedition (Image:wikipedia)

Bengaluru, Oct 31: India will undertake another lunar expedition in early 2018 by sending a lander and a rover to explore the Moon to unravel its origin and present conditions, a top space official said on Monday.

The second Moon mission — Chandrayaan-2 — comes nearly a decade after India’s maiden lunar odessey in November 8, 2008, through a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, which was launched on October 22 that year.

For launching Chandrayaan-1, the ISRO used PSLV rocket as the spacecraft carried only an impact probe vehicle to crash land on the Moon surface from its orbit.

“We are working towards putting an orbiter, lander, and the whole system in the lunar orbit in the first quarter of 2018,” state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar told reporters here.

“The orbiter is getting ready and integrated,” he said.

“The lander and rover are undergoing tests. Some more tests are planned for December,” the ISRO chief said.

The lunar spacecraft will be launched onboard the space agency’s heavy rocket — Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark II — from the second launch pad of the space port, located at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

As part of integration, the lander and rover would be configured for soft landing at a designated spot on the Moon and to conduct scientific experiments.

The rover will emerge from the lander to observe the lunar terrain and relay the data along with images through radio links.(IANS)

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India to launch new Cartosat-2, 28 foreign satellites in December

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ISRO
India to launch new Cartosat-2, 28 foreign satellites in December

India would launch its latest remote sensing satellite in Cartosat-2 series along with 28 foreign satellites riding piggy-back in December, a top space official said on Monday.

“In the next launch, we have a Cartosat along with 28 international commercial satellites, which we will launch in the second half of December,” said S. Rakesh, the Chairman and Managing Director of Antrix Corporation Ltd, the commercial arm of state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

There will be 25 nano satellites and three micro satellites from the US and other countries as co-passengers along the space firm’s own satellite of the Cartosat-2 series, he said.

The satellites will be launched into the orbit onboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), Rakesh added.

The next launch will be keenly watched as it comes after ISRO’s PSLV rocket failed to deploy a spare navigation satellite on August 31. The rocket’s heat shield had failed to separate leaving the satellite inside the shield.

The Cartosat-2 is an earth observation satellite that is capable of providing high-quality images.

Imageries from Cartosat-2 series are used for cartographic, urban and rural applications, coastal land use and regulation, utility management like road network monitoring, water distribution, creation of land use maps, change detection to bring out geographical and man-made features and other Land Information System (LIS) and Geographical Information System (GIS) applications.

The previous satellite (Cartosat-2E) in the series was launched on February 15 this year from the spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, about 90km northeast of Chennai.(IANS)