Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty
Blogs

Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Photos and Video of India's Mars Orbiter Mission, proceeding toward October 28 launch

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

23-09-2013 13:33 CDT

Topics: Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), mission status

Indian media reported over the weekend that the Mars Orbiter Mission has passed some senior review, and has been approved to proceed toward a launch date of October 28, with the launch taking place in the afternoon. This is one week later than previously planned; I haven't found any reason cited for the delay. The launch period closes November 19. The same article states that the spacecraft is now undergoing vibration testing and that there will be a pre-shipment review on Thursday. Assuming the spacecraft passes that review, it is expected to be shipped to the launch site at Sriharikota a week from today, on September 30. The launch vehicle is being assembled, and the spacecraft will be stacked onto the rocket on October 10.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) held a media day for viewing of their Mars Orbiter Mission two weeks ago, so lots of photos of actual hardware have been trickling out onto the Web since then. I've assembled a bunch of them into an album on Flickr. Here are some highlights:

ISRO_MOM7
mars_2_1580660g_1593335f
1892359
India's Mars Orbiter Mission nearing completion

PTI

India's Mars Orbiter Mission nearing completion
ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission undergoing final assembly and testing in Bengaluru.

Check the Flickr photo album for more. And here are a couple of news reports containing video evidently shot at the same time as those photos. The videos were originally posted to nasaspaceflight.com by Shashi Raj Singh.

The news from the Curiosity mission last week that the rover has performed six atmospheric analyses without detecting a whiff of methane has produced a little bit of consternation in India. (For excellent writeups of the Curiosity results, try Jonathan Amos at BBC or Robert Gonzalez at io9.) One of the Mars Orbiter Mission's five scientific instruments is a dedicated methane sensor. It seems this sensor may be fated to produce a null result before the spacecraft has even launched.

NASA's MAVEN mission will be looking for methane as well, but MAVEN's science team has always downplayed the significance of methane detection, making it clear that their mission is intended to characterize many trace gases at Mars. Here's one planning document that states "It’s not just about methane!" and goes on to say "A Trace Gas Mission must provide...a definitive statement about whether or not methane is still present in the atmosphere and characterize whatever variability it has. However, a detailed inventory of atmospheric gases and their isotopologues will be a major advance in our understanding of the recent history and climate of Mars whether or not methane is detected."

Still, ISRO's leaders have played up the question of extant life on Mars as being one of the drivers for the Mars Orbiter Mission. So it's a little surprising to me to see the lack of planetary protection precautions being taken in the photos from the Mars Orbiter Mission's so-called "clean room" above. Bare hands, unmasked facial hair, uncovered clothing, and street shoes must be bringing plenty of organic material into that room, and leaving it on the spacecraft. Compare the attire of the ISRO workers to that of the people preparing MAVEN for launch on the same kind of mission to the same planet:

Attaching MAVEN's high-gain antenna, August 9, 2013

NASA / Jim Grossmann

Attaching MAVEN's high-gain antenna, August 9, 2013
Technicians install the parabolic high gain antenna onto the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN spacecraft, in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility.

It's certainly worth asking whether the MAVEN level of planetary protection is really necessary on a spacecraft that should mostly burn up if it ever enters Mars' atmosphere, and it's worth pointing out that if we're serious about eventually sending humans to the surface of Mars, then planetary protection is impossible anyway. If it were to crash, the Mars Orbiter Mission would add no more load of Earthly contamination to Mars than any of the failed Russian missions did. But still. If you're going to talk about organics and methane I think it would behoove you to make sure you're bringing as little of both with you as possible.

 
See other posts from September 2013

 

Or read more blog entries about: Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), mission status

Comments:

sanman: 09/23/2013 06:10 CDT

It's not a big deal - this is an orbiter mission. ISRO's a long way from being able to land something on Mars. It'll take more than a few hairs to throw off the measurements.

Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Blog Search

JOIN THE
PLANETARY SOCIETY

Our Curiosity Knows No Bounds!

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.

Join Us

Featured Images

Curiosity wheel survey, sol 708

Curiosity mobility system, labeled
Diagram of a Curiosity wheel
Mars in July/August 2014
More Images

Featured Video

View Larger »

Fly to an Asteroid!

Travel to Bennu on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft!

Send your name

Join the New Millennium Committee

Let’s invent the future together!

Become a Member

Connect With Us

Facebook! Twitter! Google+ and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!