After 8 years of service, Indian space agency ISRO declares Mars mission non-recoverable
Clearing the mystery over the health of the country's nine-year-old Mars mission, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) declared the 'Mangalyaan' Mars orbiting spacecraft non-recoverable. This confirmation from ISRO comes after there were reports of the spacecraft having lost communication with the ground station and run out of fuel.
ISRO launched Mangalyaan or Mars Orbiter Mission (MoM) on November 3, 2013, and the spacecraft entered the Martian orbit on September 24, 2014, after a 300-days-long interplanetary journey. Designed for a six-month operational life in Martian orbit, the MoM spacecraft worked for almost eight years and generated ample quantities of scientific data about the red planet.
"ISRO deliberated that the propellant (fuel onboard the spacecraft) must have been exhausted, and therefore, the desired attitude pointing could not be achieved (spacecraft's solar panels could not point towards the sun) for sustained power generation," read the statement from ISRO. Based on the analysis, the Indian space agency declared the spacecraft non-recoverable and as having reached the 'end of its life'.
As recently as last week, speaking at an event commemorating '8 Years of Mangalyaan', a senior ISRO scientist shared specific details on the MoM. "Right now, we have no fuel left, to be able to change the geometry of the spacecraft to the sun" the scientist is heard saying in the video. It was also elaborated that the spacecraft had to operate during back-to-back, long-duration eclipses (periods when the shadow of Mars falls on it, thus hindering its ability to receive solar energy on its panels and charge its batteries)."
"From April 1, 2022, we have had back-to-back long eclipses that spanned anywhere from 30 minutes to seven-and-a-half hours...the one we really survived was an eclipse that lasted six and a half hours," the scientist says.
The scientist also added that the spacecraft did a critical manoeuvre in 2017 and ended up burning 20 kilogrammes of its 33 kg fuel. After that manoeuvre, the spacecraft had only 13 kg of fuel left, of which 2.5 kg is required every year for basic manoeuvres to remain in orbit. Finally, it was added that there is only around 2 or 2.4 kg of fuel left in the spacecraft and that quantity won't be sufficient for any future manoeuvres.