The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Mars Orbiter Mission was, on Tuesday, extended for another six months to further explore the Red Planet and its atmosphere.
“As the 1,340 kg Mars Orbiter has sufficient fuel (37 kg) to last longer than it was intended earlier, its mission has been extended for another six months,” the senior official of the Indian space agency told IANS .
The historic mission has completed six months of orbiting the Red Planet.
India also became the first country to have entered the Mars Sphere of Influence in its maiden attempt.
“The five scientific instruments onboard the spacecraft [Orbiter] will continue to collect data and relay it to our deep space network centre here for analysis,” ISRO director Devi Prasad Karnik said.
Of the five payloads onboard, the Mars Colour Camera (MCC) has been the most active, taking several stunning images of the red planet’s surface and its surroundings, including valleys, mountains, craters, clouds and dust storms.
“The camera has beamed to us several breathtaking pictures of the Martian surface and its weather patterns such as dust storms. We have uploaded many pictures on our website and our Facebook account for viewing,” Mr. Karnik said.
The other four instruments have been conducting experiments to study the Martian surface, its rich mineral composition and scan its atmosphere for methane gas to know if it can support life.
The four instruments are Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP), Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA) and Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS).
MSM measures the natural gas in the Martian atmosphere with PPB (particles per billion) accuracy and map its sources.
LAP is studying the atmospheric process of Mars and measure the deuterium (isotope) and hydrogen ratio and neutral particles in its upper atmosphere.
MENCA and TIS are analysing the neutral composition and measure the temperature during day and night to map the surface composition and mineralogy of Mars.
“As methane is an indicator of past life on Mars, the sensor is looking for its presence in the Martian orbit. If available, we will know its source in terms of biology and geology. The thermal infrared sensor will find out if the gas is from geological origin,” Mr. Karnik pointed out.