What is red, is a planet and is the focus of my orbit? pic.twitter.com/HDRWjOcPus
— ISRO's Mars Orbiter (@MarsOrbiter) September 24, 2014
We have seen two historic firsts today, September 24:
- The arrival of India’s first interplanetary space mission at its goal
- A completely successful first attempt to reach Mars (the Russians and the Americans had to try multiple times; technically, the orbiter part of Europe’s first mission – the Mars Express – has been very successful, but its Beagle 2 lander was lost).
Today the Mars Orbiter Mission – MOM, or (Mangalyaan, which reportedly means “Mars vehicle”) – has succeeded on its first attempt at orbital insertion around Mars. Unlike NASA’s MAVEN (an atmospheric research orbiter that successfully entered Martian orbit three days ago), Mangalyaan did have a second chance to do this in another couple of days, if the first attempt didn’t work, but it didn’t need it.
Other differences between these two newest Mars orbiters include size, their missions, and the paths they took to the Red Planet. They also have some things in common.
MOM and MAVEN Comparisons/Contrasts
|Mars Orbiter Mission||MAVEN|
|Date launched:||November 5, 2013||November 18, 2013|
|Date left Earth orbit:||November 30, 2013||November 18, 2013|
|Trajectory:||Gravity assist||Direct to Mars|
|Payload mass:||33 pounds (15 kg)||143 pounds (65 kg)|
|Size:||Comparable to a small car||Comparable to a school bus|
|Power:||840 watts||1,135 watts|
|Launch vehicle:||Polar satellite launch vehicle||Atlas V with Centaur assist|
|Date(s) of orbit insertion:||September 24 or September 27, 2014||September 21, 2014|
|Mission:||Demonstrate and test technology and operations required for interplanetary travel; methane detection; study Martian surface||Study the upper Martian atmosphere|
|Mars orbit:||Elliptical, 76.72 Earth hours||Elliptical, 4.5 Earth hours|
|Planned mission length:||6 Earth months||1 Earth year|
|Mission cost in USD:||75 million||671 million|
|Mission website(s):||ISRO||NASA and UC Boulder Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics|
The price tag and Earth orbit departures are the biggest differences between the US and Indian missions.
Of note, while it took Mangalyaan weeks to leave our neighborhood, the craft was able to tap into Earth’s angular momentum to such an extent that it really sped along once it left and is now ready for Mars orbit insertion only a few days after MAVEN. Certainly there is a savings in propellant there, but smaller payload size (with corresponding limitations on equipment) and lower production costs were the major contributors to cost reduction on the Mars Orbiter Mission.
Is there a way to combine the two approaches, I wonder, so that by the time manned Mars missions are ready, mankind can have the most cost effective science, safety margins, and human comfort possible?
At the moment, NASA has helped ISRO guide Mangalyaan to Mars by providing key communications and navigation support through the Deep Space Network. Today its MAVEN mission team watched closely as the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) brought their spacecraft in.
— : NASA_Eyes (@nasa_eyes) September 24, 2014
Spaceflight101’s MOM updates page.
- MOM has edge over MAVEN, say Isro scientists. DNA India
- Mangalyaan on track: 5 things to know about India’s Mars Orbiter Mission. Hindustan Times
- MAVEN and MOM Missions from NASA and India Plan Martian Science Collaboration in Orbit. Ken Kremer
- Why are MAVEN and Mars Orbiter Mission taking such different paths to Mars? Emily Lakdawalla
- Mars Orbiter Mission prepares for Mars arrival. Srinivas Laxman
- Basics of Spaceflight, Chapter 4. NASA
- Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN). Wikipedia
- Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Wikipedia