[Space] ISRO Mars Orbiter Mission (MoM) Mangalyaan: Payloads, Purpose, Argument favor & against

ISRO Mars Mission Mangalyan Payloads

[Space] ISRO Mars Orbiter Mission (MoM) Mangalyaan: Payloads, Purpose, Argument favor & against

  1. Prologue
  2. Mars Planet: Basics
  3. Mars: Past missions
  4. MoM (ISRO) vs MAVEN (NASA)
    1. MoM’s Launch Vehicle
    2. MoM @Mars
    3. Payloads and purpose?
  5. Do we need Mars Mission?
    1. Anti-Arguments
    2. Pro-arguments
      1. #1: cash will be recovered
      2. #2: Soft Power
      3. #3: Did not steal from poor’s month
      4. #4: Making History
      5. #5: Misc.
  6. Mock Questions
  7. Correct Answers for the MCQs


  • Old article, just updating a few bits after Mangalyaan reached Mars in September 2014.
  • There is no dearth of ball by ball commentary and technical articles in newspaper, but for the exam focus should be on: basics, purpose, pros and cons.
  • Otherwise September seems to be the busiest and tiresome month of 2014 for competitive aspirants- Modi Government launching a new scheme-committee-initiative every day, SC giving a new landmark verdict every day, newspapers are littered with columns on foreign relations, Ebola, Mars, ISIS, J&K floods, Scotland and what not.

Mars Planet: Basics

  • Has two moons: Phobos and Deimos
  • 4th planet from Sun
  • 2nd smallest planet in the Solar system after Mercury.
  • Diameter: ~6800 kms (Mars); Earth (~12700 kms)
  • Volume wise, ~8 Mars would fit inside our Earth.
  • One Martian day: 24 hours 37 minutes
  • One Martian year: 687 days
  • Mars is also tilted on its axis (25 degrees).
  • Mars gravity 1/10th of Earth.
  • When Sun and Mars are in opposite direction, it can be easily observed from Earth.
How far is Mars from Earth?
shortest farthest
56 million kms 400 million kms, when both are on opposite sides of solar system.

Mars: Past missions

List is not exhaustive
USSR Mars orbiter (70s) USSR: Korabl series, Mars 1969 series, Phobos Grunt

  • Marine series (~mid 60s)
  • Viking series (mid 70s)
  • Pathfinder (~mid 90s)
  • Rovers: Spirt, Opportunity (2003)
  • Phoenix (2007)
  • Curiosity (2011)
  • Maven (2013-14)
USA  Mariner series before mid-60s
European Space Agency (2003) Beagal lender (although images lost) Japan’s Nozomi- failed to enter Mars orbit (1998-2003)
ISRO’s Mars Orbitor Mission (2013-14)


ISRO’s MoM NASA’s Maven
Mars Orbitor Mission Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN)
launch vehicle=PSLV Atlas V rockets. (more powerful than PSLV)
launched on 5th Nov 2013 18th Nov 2013
reached Mars on 24th Sep 2014 Reached Mars on 21st Sep 2014.
launched from Sriharikota, Andhra launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida, US.
Rs.450 crore $671 million
~1,350 kg ??
Doing three studies:

  1. Surface/geology: using camera and spectrometer.
  2. (Particle) Environment: using MENCA
  3. Atmosphere: using Photometer and Methane sensor
  • Only study Martian (upper) atmosphere.
  • based on that data: It’ll give clues about martian climate, geologic, and geochemical conditions over time
  • Will find the answer: Did Mars ever had suitable environment to support life?
has five instruments/payloads has eight instrument- spectrograph, magnetometer, ion analyzer etc.
The spacecraft may also provide communications relay support for future Mars landers and rovers.

MoM’s Launch Vehicle

Polar satellite launch vehicle Geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle
Can carry upto 1600 kg satellite 2500kg

ISRO had used PSLV XL (C25) launch vehicle to launch the Mangalyaan (Mars spacecraft). Why?

  1. At that time, GSLV tests were not successful. Last time they tried GSLV to launch GSAT-14 satellite and failed because of fuel leak. (Aug 2013)
  2. Mangalyaan weighs ~1300 kg. PSLV can easily carry this weight.
  3. PSLV is tried and tested technology.


  • MoM/Mangalyaan: first Indian spacecraft to cross Earth’s escape velocity of 11.2 km per second.
  • Mangalyaan traveled for ~300 days, covering ~65 crore kilometers, and reached Martian orbit in September 2014.
  • Mangalyan is not the fastest spacecraft to reach Mars. Others are far ahead of It, in terms of speed. For example- European Space Agency’s Mars mission (2003) reached Mars in  ~210 days.
  • MoM cost 7 rupees per kms to reach Mars.

MoM @Mars

  • Nov 2013: MoM Launched from Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh
  • Sep 2014: MoM reached Mars orbit
MoM in Mars Orbit
Periapsis: nearest point ~420 kms
Apoapsis: farthest point ~77,000 kms
time to finish one circle of Mars ~73 hours / ~ 3 days.
Orbit inclination 150 degrees

Payloads and purpose?

ISRO Mars Mission Mangalyan Payloads

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