Bengaluru: Just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was beginning to look anxious and moved to the edge of his seat, ISRO's Chairman Dr K. Radhakrishnan got the call that he was waiting for, and the one that cemented the place of every Indian space scientist in the Sun: Mangalyaan was coasting in the vicinity of Mars after making it to a precise orbit around the planet on Wednesday morning. At the top of a slew of firsts they achieved today is the feat of steering a probe into orbit around Mars in their maiden shot.
It was 8 am when Dr Keshavraju, mission director, Mars Orbiter Mission, called Dr Radhakrishnan with news that ground stations at Canberra and Goldstone had received signals-albeit after a delay of 12.5 minutes-confirming that a motor onboard Mangalyaan, which whirred for 24.23 minutes, had prodded the probe into the designated orbit around the Red Planet.
Read: Moment in history: MOM enters Mars orbit successfully
The call set off applause, and show of thumbs-up and ‘V’ gestures by senior scientists and engineers inside the Mission Operations Complex at ISRO's Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) facility in Bengaluru while their junior counterparts rushed out of a neighbouring building screaming with joy: Hip, hip hurray!
They won wholesome praise from Mr Modi who called upon students across the country to celebrate “Anand Utsav” to compliment Indian space scientists for their extraordinary feat. “Today, MOM has met Mangal (Mars). Today, Mangal has got MOM. The time this mission was short named as MOM, I was sure that MOM won't disappoint us,” remarked Modi while addressingscientists and engineers of ISRO at ISTRAC soon after the historic moment.
Addressing scientists and engineers of Isro at its Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) facility here, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the organisation has achieved the “near impossible,” and prevailed though the “odds were stacked against us.”
“Of the 51 missions attempted across the world so far, a mere 21 have succeeded. But we have prevailed.” Indian scientists, through their hard work and dedication, had stretched the boundaries of human enterprise and imagination.
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This was not the sole achievement of the day, for the colour camera onboard Mangalyaan took five pictures of Mars, which would be received at Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) facility near Bengaluru later today. “It is as good as being told that I am father of a child. These pictures will convince tax payers that the expenditure on Mangalyaan is acceptable,” Dr Ashutosh Shyamsingh Arya, principal investigator for the colour cam era and a scientist at SAC told DC.
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Besides beaming pictures of Martian soil and movement of sand dunes on the planet, the colour camera would be used to send out pictures of comet Siding Spring during its fly-by in October 2014.
For Mrs. Neelavathi, head of the team from ISRO's Satellite Centre (ISAC), Bengaluru, which assembled transmitters for Mangalyaan, it was total satisfaction as systems designed by them worked flawlessly. “We are happy that the systems functioned as predicted and that the spacecraft has reached the right orbit,” she added.
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As for the question about how Mangalyaan would help scientists, Prof. Jitendra Nath Goswami, Director, Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad said the instruments onboard could answer questions on evolution of Mars and the universe, and the million-dollar-question of life on that planet. “The results will certain be the icing on the cake of this great achievement,” he told Deccan Chronicle.
The Orbiter, according to Dr S.K. Shivakumar, Director, ISAC, was in “extremely good health” after arriving at its orbit. “We saw good synchronization of all systems and therefore we are very happy with the performance of Mangalyaan,” he added.