India ends Mars mission as spacecraft runs out of fuel after eight years

Space agency says Mangalyaan orbiter, which had been expected to function for only six months, is now ‘non-recoverable’

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The Indian space agency has announced that its Mars mission has ended, after it lost contact with its spacecraft in April.

Officials at the Indian Space Research Organisation believe its Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft — known as Mangalyaan — ran out of fuel.

Isro said it lost contact due to a long eclipse. This made it impossible for mission control to reposition Mangalyaan so it could be recharged through its solar panels.

Mangalyaan entered the orbit of Mars in 2014 and was expected to have a six-month lifespan. However, it was operational for eight years.

“Isro deliberated that the propellant must have been exhausted, and therefore, the desired attitude pointing could not be achieved for sustained power generation,” the space agency said on Monday.

“It was declared that the spacecraft is non-recoverable and attained its end of life.”

Indian Space Research Organisation staff celebrate after Mangalyaan entered into orbit around Mars in 2014. AFP

At $74 million, Mangalyaan is the least expensive mission to Mars. In comparison, Nasa spent $2.7 billion on its Perseverance rover, which landed on the Red Planet last year.

The UAE spent $200m to develop and launch its Hope spacecraft mission to Mars. Hope has been orbiting the planet since February last year.

Isro said that the Mangalyaan mission made many contributions to the science community.

Over the years, it studied the planet’s dust storms, its atmosphere and ice caps.

More than 7,200 users registered to download data from the spacecraft.

“Despite being designed for a lifespan of six months as a technology demonstrator, the Mars Orbiter Mission has lived for about eight years in the Martian orbit with a gamut of significant scientific results on Mars as well as on the Solar corona, before losing communication with the ground station, as a result of a long eclipse in April 2022,” the agency said.

India has spent billions on its space programme over the years and has plans to launch astronauts on a domestically built rocket.

Isro has also carried out lunar missions and reached the Moon with its Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008. The orbiter captured data for a year and gleaned vital information on water molecules on the lunar surface.

However, the country’s attempt to soft land on the Moon with its Chandrayaan-2 mission failed in 2019, when the Vikram lander crash-landed.

It has plans to launch its third mission to the Moon ― Chandrayaan-3.

India also plans to launch its Shukrayaan-1 orbiter to Venus later this decade.

The four-year mission will orbit the hottest planet in the Solar System, collecting data on its mysterious atmosphere.

Updated: October 04, 2022, 10:20 AM
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