Mangalyaan: All you need to know about India’s first historic mission to Mars

Oct 3, 2022

By: Eetika Kapoor

India’s first mission to Mars – Mangalyaan

India’s first mission to Mars – Mangalyaan – was designed to be kept afloat for 6 months – it managed to last 8 years. On 2 October 2022, it was reported that the orbiter may have run out of fuel and lost contact with Earth. With Mangalyaan, India became only the fourth nation to successfully reach Mars. Here’s a brief history of the illustrious mission.

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India’s Mangalyaan: The origin

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), or Mangalyaan, was officially sent into orbit on 5th November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) aboard a PSLV-C25 rocket. It stayed in the earth’s orbit for a month before entering Mars orbit on 24th September 2014.

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The mission began in 2010

The mission began with a feasibility study in 2010 by the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology after the successful launch of lunar satellite Chandrayaan-1 in 2008. The word Mangalyaan comes from mangala, "Mars" and yāna, "craft, vehicle".

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Why was Mangalyaan launched?

The mission was meant to develop the technologies for designing, planning and managing India’s first interplanetary mission. It was also designed to study Martian soil and atmosphere.

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A series of path-breaking firsts

Before India’s Mars Orbiter Mission lost contact with Earth on 2nd October, it notched up many firsts for India. It was India’s first planetary mission and also made the country the only one to successfully launch a Mars mission in one attempt. India was also the first Asian nation to do so.

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Team Mangalyaan

14 ISRO brains were involved in MOM. K. Radhakrishnan was the ISRO chairman at the time. Subbiah Arunan was the director of the mission. The other team members were M Annadurai, S Ramakrishnan, SK Shivakumar and V Adimurthy. Many women scientists worked prominently on the project including, Ritu Karidhal, Nandini Harinath, Anuradha TK, Moumita Dutta and Minal Rohit.

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How was Mangalyaan so cheap?

One of the many feats of Mangalyaan was its cost-effectiveness – it was the least expensive mission to Mars globally. The mission cost $72 million, cheaper than a Hollywood sci-fi movie like Gravity. This was accredited to the low worker costs and domestically developed technologies, which made it a considerably lighter design.

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Mission Mangal

Mission Mangal, a Bollywood film based on India’s first mission to Mars, was released on Independence Day in 2019. It starred Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Taapsee Pannu and Nithya Menen. The movie earned over ₹290 crore globally, becoming the 8th highest grossing Bollywood film of 2019.

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Mangalyaan 2

We might have bid goodbye to Mangalyaan but India has already been working on its second interplanetary mission called Mangalyaan 2. It remains to be seen how fast ISRO will now move on Mangalyaan 2 even as it works on its other planned projects such as Gaganyaan and Chandrayaan 3.

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