Thanks to sufficient fuel, Mars Orbiter Mission extended by another six months

AFP | DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Mar 24, 2015, 10:44 pm IST
Updated Mar 29, 2019, 2:17 pm IST
The latest picture taken by ISRO's Mars Orbiter shows the complete Red Planet (Photo: ISRO)
 The latest picture taken by ISRO's Mars Orbiter shows the complete Red Planet (Photo: ISRO)

Bangalore: India's famously frugal Mars mission has been extended by around six months thanks to a surplus of fuel on board the spacecraft, the country's space agency said on Tuesday.

The Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft had been scheduled to wrap up its mission this month after India in September became the first Asian nation to reach the Red Planet, all on a shoe-string budget.

But scientists said the unmanned spacecraft would remain in orbit to study the planet's atmosphere and its surface after burning less fuel than expected over the last six months.

"As the... Mars Orbiter has sufficient fuel to last longer than it was intended earlier, its mission has been extended for another six months," said Devi Prasad Karnik, director of the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation.

"The five scientific instruments on board the spacecraft will continue to collect data and relay them to our deep space network centre here for analysis," Karnik told AFP.

India's successful mission to Mars, all on its first attempt, is a huge source of national pride, while the government has heralded the project as an example of Indian-made capability. 

The mission cost just $74 million, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has quipped was less than the estimated $100 million budget for the sci-fi Hollywood blockbuster "Gravity".

Of the five instruments on board, the spacecraft's camera has been the most active, capturing images of the planet's surface, including valleys, mountains, craters, clouds and dust storms.

The other four have been conducting various experiments to study the Martian surface, including its mineral composition and to scan its atmosphere for methane gas, which comes mainly from living organisms.

Scientists at mission control in the southern city of Bangalore say the spacecraft and its instruments are functioning normally.

"The health and other parameters of the spacecraft are fine and all the essential functions continue to perform normal," Karnik said.

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