Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)

Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), informally also called Mangalyaan, is India’s first interplanetary mission to the planet Mars with an orbiter craft designed to orbit Mars in an elliptical orbit. The primary objective of the Mars Orbiter Mission is to showcase India’s rocket launch systems, spacecraft building and operations capabilities. Specifically, the primary objective is to develop the technologies required for designing, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission. The secondary objective is to explore Mars’ surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere using indigenous scientific instruments.

It is India’s first interplanetary mission and ISRO has become the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after the Soviet space program, NASA, and the European Space Agency. It is the first Asian nation to reach Mars orbit, and the first nation in the world to do so in its first attempt.

China failed to successfully send a spacecraft to Mars when they tried in 2012, and Japan failed a similar effort in 1999. In addition to being the first country in Asia to reach Mars, India made world history by becoming the first nation to launch a successful Mars mission on their first try.

Cost of Mars Orbiter Mission

MOM is the least-expensive Mars mission to date. The total cost of the mission was approximately Rs. 450 Crore (US$73 million). The low cost of the mission was ascribed by K. Radhakrishnan, the chairman of ISRO, to various factors, including a “modular approach”, few ground tests and long (18-20 hour) working days for scientists. Lower worker costs, home-grown technologies, simpler design, and significantly less complicated payload than NASA’s MAVEN are main reasons of its less cost.

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission extended by another 6 months

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission’s (MOM) life has been extended by another six months. Mangalyaan or Mars Orbiter Mission completed its six months mission in the Red Planet orbit on March 24, 2015.

The planned life-span of the MOM, India’s first inter-planetary expedition, was of six months But MOM’s life has been extended by another six months to further explore the Red Planet and its atmosphere.

How India Made Such A Cheap Space Probe

India launched a probe that settled into orbit around Mars at 8 in morning of Sept. 24, India Standard Time, making them the first Asian country to successfully reach the red planet.

What’s even more impressive is that they achieved this feat for $74 million – it cost Hollywood producers $100 million to make the film Gravity. 2

Here’s how they did it:

  • The Indian Space Research Organization built the Mangalyaan satellite in-house with local technologies instead of outsourcing production or purchasing more expensive foreign components.
  • They kept things light. Mangalyaan weighs about 33 pounds, which is 50 times lighter than 1,784-pound MAVEN NASA satellite, which arrived at Mars a few days earlier.
  • ISRO built only one physical model of the spacecraft, keeping costs down.

Lighter spacecraft are cheaper to build but that also means they can carry fewer instruments, which limits scientific research capabilities.

Mangalyaan will not touch down on the planet’s surface and therefore doesn’t need additional protective gear for landing, which helps keep the craft light. Instead of landing, it will orbit above the Martian surface and study methane levels in the atmosphere.

Why MOM is the most Amazing Space Mission in the World

India has created global history by becoming the first Asian nation to reach the Mars orbit in a space mission. The success is sweeter because this has been done in its maiden attempt. No other country that has attempted a mission to Mars has succeeded in reaching the planet on debut. So, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) can claim that it has done a shade better than accomplished space powers such as the United States and Russia in reaching Mars.

There are some reasons why India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is just amazing:

  • The Mangalyaan mission cost India $73 million (Rs.450 crores) which is even cheaper than than the budget of film “Gravity” which was about $105 million and about one-tenth of what the US has spent on MAVEN, making it undoubtedly the most cost-effective inter-planetary space mission to have ever been undertaken anywhere in the world.
  • In real terms, when distributed over the population of 1.2 billion, every Indian has contributed Rs.4 per towards the mission.
  • Mangalyaan will observe the environment of Mars and look for various elements like methane (marsh gas), which is a possible indicator of life. It will also look for Deuterium-Hydroden ratio and other neutral constants.
  • The orbiter weighs 1,350-kg, which is even less than the weight of an average sports utility vehicle
  • The manufacturing of Mangalyaan took 15 months while NASA took five years to complete MAVEN.
  • Mangalyaan is the first spacecraft to be launched outside the Earth’s sphere of influence by ISRO in its entire history of 44 years.
  • ISRO will be the fourth space agency in the world after National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US, Russian Federal Space Agency (RFSA) and European Space Agency to have successfully undertaken a mission to Mars.
  • Considering that Mars is about 670 million kilometers from the Earth, the cost of the ride works out to about Rs.6.7 per kilometre – cheaper than what even autorickshaws charge anywhere in India.
  • No country has ever had a successful Mars mission at the first attempt. Only 3 countries have sent successful Martian missions. India is the 4th. 

NASA deploys New System to avoid Traffic Jams at Mars

Five active spacecrafts are now orbiting the Red Planet, including one from India, leaving NASA with no option but to beef up traffic monitoring, communication and manoeuvre planning to ensure that Mars orbiters do not collide with one another.

The newly-enhanced collision-avoidance system from the US space agency accurately warns if two orbiters approach each other too closely.

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan) joined the 2003 Mars Express from ESA (the European Space Agency) and two from NASA — the 2001 Mars Odyssey and the 2006 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

Currently, all the five active Mars orbiters use the communication and tracking services of NASA’s Deep Space Network. The newly-enhanced collision-avoidance process also tracks the approximate location of the NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, a 1997 orbiter that is no longer working. It is a part of NASA’s Multi-Mission Automated Deep-Space Conjunction Assessment Process.0

List of Mars Orbiters

The following table is a list of Mars orbiters, consisting of space probes which were launched from Earth and are currently orbiting Mars. There are thirteen known artificial satellites in Mars’ orbit, five of which are actively collecting data.

S. No Artificial object Agency Launch date Entered orbit Days active
1. Mars 2 Lavochkin 19 May 1971 27 November 1972 269 days
2. Mars 3 Lavochkin 28 May 1971 2 December 1972 264 days
3. Mariner 9 NASA 30 May 1971 14 November 1972 348 days
4. Mars 5 Lavochkin 25 July 1973 12 February 1974 16 days
5. Viking 1 NASA 20 August 1975 19 June 1976 1,520 days
6. Viking 2 NASA 9 September 1975 7 August 1976 717 days
7. Phobos 2 IKI 12 July 1988 29 January 1989 57 days
8. Mars Global Surveyor NASA 7 November 1996 12 September 1997 3,338 days
9. 2001 Mars Odyssey NASA 7 April 2001 24 October 2001 5,381 days
10. Mars Express ESA 2 June 2003 25 December 2003 4,589 days
11. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter NASA 12 August 2005 10 March 2006 3,783 days
12. Mangalyaan ISRO 5 November 2013 24 September 2014 663 days
13. MAVEN NASA 18 November 2013 22 September 2014 665 days
14. ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter ESA
14 March 2016 19 October 2016 (planned)  



Author: Dhirender Kumar

Writer is System Administrator, Manav Rachna International School,

Email :



  • June 27, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    The collaboration offers NASA the potential flight technology demonstration of critical entry, descent, and landing for human exploration—particularly supersonic retro-propulsion—in the Mars atmosphere,” Thompson explained.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *