Mars orbiter to leave Earth’s orbit soon after midnight

India’s first Mars Orbiter Mission(MOM) will bid adieu to the Earth’s orbit soon after the intervening midnight of Saturday-Sunday on a 300-day voyage to the red planet.
Launched by PSLV-C25 on November 5 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft has been orbiting the Earth, increasing its farthest point through six orbit-raising manoeuvre controlled by the Isro ground station in Bangalore.
“Some 250 scientists are working on the last big exercise before the spacecraft leaves the earth’s orbit. It should be done before you wake up on Sunday,” Isro chairman K Radhakrishnan told TOI on Saturday.
Through six orbit raising exercises, scientists have brought the apogee (the spacecraft’s farthest point from Earth) from the initial 25,000km to 1.92 lakh km.
At 9.45am on Saturday, scientists at the Satellite Control Centre loaded the commands to the spacecraft which would fire on it own to increase velocity. “The last thrust will impart a delta velocity of 647.87metres per second,” said Radhakrishnan.
This will help the spacecraft attain a cumulative velocity of 11.4km per second one to escape the earth’s gravity (11.2km per second is considered the escape velocity)
As the spacecraft starts its voyage through the spheres of influence of sun and Mars, four mid course correction processes are planned to keep it on course. “We have planned the first one on Dec 11,” said Radhakrishnan.
“The next ones will be on December 11, April, August and September, 2014. The last correction will be about 15 days before the spacecraft comes near Mars. Then follows the Mars orbiter insertion.”
If all goes fine, MOM will study a range of things including early signs of life or supporting system on the red planet and its atmosphere through five indigenous instruments or for at least five months.


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