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Hobbies & interests

By Mohan Babu

Solar system planets orbitting the Sun

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the Mars orbiter on November of 2013. MOM is the short form for Mars Orbiter Mission. Mangalyaan is the Sanskrit name given to the Mars Orbiter mission. It means "Mars craft" in Sanskrit. By September 2014, the Mars orbiter has successfully entered the orbit of Mars, a feat achieved so far only by three other space agencies - Soviet Space agency, NASA and European space agency. This project is very special for India because it is the most cost effective of all the Mars bound programs. Hope a human being would be able to set foot on Mars in the near future.

full moon

It is a complicated task to send an orbiter to another planet. It needs a great deal of precision to launch an orbiter that would take about ten months to reach the red planet. So one should direct the orbiter towards the position in space where Mars would reach exactly ten months after the launch. If the orbiter is delayed by even a day, there is a risk of missing the Red planet completely.

When we send a vehicle from one point to another point on Earth, the speed of the vehicle does not matter much. A faster vehicle may cover the distance in three hours and a slower vehicle may take four hours to reach the same destination. But in the case of inter-planetary travel, there is no option to travel at a lesser speed or increased speed. The orbiter needs to travel at the right speed if it has to reach the destination. 

If the orbiter travels a bit slow or a shade faster than the plan, it could end up missing the direction completely and go offtrack. There is no luxury of travelling slow or fast in space travel. One need to travel just at the right speed or else the destination would be missed. So precision is such an important factor in space travel.

At this stage, the commercial use of such missions may be questionable. But such projects are a result of our quest for deeper understanding of our cosmos. Pure science should advance in areas even where there are no immediate commercial gains. It is good that many countries like Russia, USA, Europe, China and India are contributing towards the advancement of pure science in their own way.

Mars can possibly have human colonies some time in the future. Hope we are not greeted by extra terrestrials from other worlds.