The Mars Colour Camera took picture of cyclone “Helen” heading towards Andhra Pradesh coast. The pictures have a resolution of 3.5 km

The transmission of sharp pictures of the Earth by the Mars Colour Camera (MCC) on board the Mars orbiter when the craft was at an altitude of 70,000 km from the Earth has come as a boost to Indian Space Research Organisation’s capabilities.

The MCC took several pictures on November 19 and ISRO made public one image. It shows cyclone “Helen” heading towards Andhra Pradesh coast, the Indian landmass, the Bay of Bengal, cloud formations over the Arabian Sea etc.. These pictures have a resolution of 3.5 km.

ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan said on Thursday evening that there was a reason behind ISRO switching on the MCC when the spacecraft was at a height of 70,000 km above the Earth. When the craft is finally captured in the Martian orbit on September 24, 2014, it will have a peri-apsis of 376 km and an apo-apsis of 80,000 km. To demonstrate that “this is the kind of pictures that we will get when the craft is at a height of 70,000 km above Mars,” ISRO took the pictures when the craft was at the same height.

Of the orbiter’s five payloads, three had been tested from November 19. They are the MCC, the Martian Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser to look at the exosphere of Mars and the Thermal Infrared Imaging System (TIIS) to study the Red Planet’s geological activity. “We switched on these three and their health is normal. They are basically working,” Dr. Radhakrishnan said. The other two instruments are the Methane Sensor to detect methane on Mars and the Lyman Alpha Photometer to study Mars’ upper atmosphere.

M. Annadurai, Programme Director, Indian Remote-sensing Satellites and Small Satellites Systems, ISRO, said, “In Chandrayaan-1, we took pictures of the Earth with the spacecraft’s Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC)” after the craft was put into initial orbit by a PSLV-XL rocket in October 2008. “We made a similar attempt here with the help of MCC.”

ISRO compared the pictures taken by the MCC with the pictures sent by INSAT-3D the same day. “INSAT-3D is a fully operational satellite and we are able to compare its pictures with the MCC’s pictures. The pictures sent by the MCC are sharp,” Dr. Annadurai said.

S. Arunan, Project Director, Mars spacecraft, said ISRO had successfully completed the calibration of the spacecraft’s high-gain and medium-gain antenna. “All the spacecraft systems are working normally. We are preparing for the orbiter’s trans-Mars insertion on December 1,” he said.

Corrections & Clarifications

“Orbiter’s Mars Colour Camera proves itself with Earth pictures” (Nov. 23, 2013) gave the name of one of the orbiter’s payloads as Martian Exospheric Neutron Composition Analyser. It should have been Martian Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser.

Keywords: Mars orbiter

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