By M.V.Ramakrishnan

Sunday, October 19, 2014

MOM, Mars And Comet : Close Encounter Of A Cosmic Kind

After posting the exciting story about India's Mars satellite on September 25, I have been drifting for a while without attending to this blog.  But today something is happening out there in the cosmos which reminds me with a jolt to resume these articulations online at once.

Three years ago, India's very first venture into space beyond 's the earth's magnetic boundary had caused a sensation by gathering, with American equipment, positive evidence of the existence of water on the moon.   And right now, India's second outer-space fling -- the Mars Orbiter Mission, alias MOM --  is getting a close view of the nearest-ever comet encounter of any man-made equipment, in the company of American and European satellites orbiting around Mars and a couple of American vehicles roving on the surface of  Mars  (see relevant news report below).

It is 11:30 p.m. in India on Sunday night as I post this, and just now the comet will be coming closest to Mars.

Surely, this is one of the most memorable actions I have ever taken in my whole life!

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19 October 2014

Tonight, MOM spacecraft will have a ringside view of Comet Siding Spring

On Sunday night, India’s biggest inter-planetary outing will have its ‘once in a million years opportunity’.

The Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft will have a ringside view of a unique comet. The spacecraft has been at the vantage point since September 24. The teams at the Indian Space Research Organisation  (ISRO) have kept vigil for the impending visit of Comet Siding Spring since then.

The comet will be closest to Mars at 11.40 p.m. on Sunday (Indian Standard Time = 01-10 p.m. in New York) and the encounter will last 21 minutes.

"It is an opportunity that comes once in a million years,” exulted S. Arunan, ISRO’s MOM Project Director who has spearheaded the mission for over two years.  "The comet comes within 135,000 km of Mars, which is very close astronomically. We are at the right place at the right time and are extremely fortunate to watch this event.”

ISRO’s payload teams plan to operate four of the five instruments during this period, including the Mars Color Camera and the Methane Sensor for Mars and the Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer. . . 

MOM gets to watch the comet in the elite company of fellow orbiters: NASA’s MAVEN, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey; European Space Agency’s Mars Express; and NASA rovers Opportunity and Curiosity that are scouring the Martian surface.