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Srinivas LaxmanOctober 9, 2014

Mars Orbiter Mission shifts orbit to take cover from Siding Spring

With only 10 days remaining until the arrival of Comet Siding Spring at Mars, ISRO has shielded the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) from the comet.

Siding Spring's closest approach to Mars will be on October 19 at 18:32 UTC / 11:32 PDT, or midnight IST. It will pass by at a distance of 134,000 kilometers and a relative velocity of 57.4 kilometers per second.

Following orbit insertion on September 24, MOM’s orbit had been 423 by 80,000 kilometers. Kiran Kumar, Director of ISRO’s Space Application Centre, said that on Tuesday MOM’s orbit was altered so as to move it behind the Red Planet when the comet arrives. For this maneuvering on Tuesday, the spacecraft consumed 1.9 kilograms of fuel.

At the comet's closest approach, MOM will be 400 kilometers away from the surface of the Red Planet on the opposite side from the comet. Kumar said that MOM’s highest altitude was currently 72,000 kilometers, which is expected to remain unchanged even after the departure of the comet. The minimum distance between MOM and the comet on October 19 will be around 140,000 kilometers.  According to him the comet will have no negative impact on the future performance of the spacecraft or its science mission. A few days ago, the mission tweeted:

Joining the welcome party for comet #SidingSpring. @MarsCuriosity, @MAVEN2Mars, @HiRISE, #MarsOdyssey & #MarsExpress are there too. Excited!

— ISRO's Mars Orbiter (@MarsOrbiter) October 3, 2014

Kumar said that MOM will carry out observations of the comet and its Mars Colour Camera will click images of it. ISRO's chairman, K.Radhakrishnan, had stated earlier that the arrival of the comet will be viewed as an opportunity for doing scientific observations. ISRO and NASA scientists will collaborate in analyzing data generated by MOM and MAVEN related to the Comet Siding Spring.

Read more: Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), comets, mission status, comet Siding Spring, Mars

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Srinivas Laxman

Space Journalist for Times of India
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