The Ophir Chasma as photographed by Mangalyaan’s colour camera. ISRO
Just in time for India’s Independence Day, the country’s very first interplanetary mission, the Mars Orbiter Mission, has sent back some beautiful images of the Red Planet’s surface.
The Indian Space Research Organisation mission, also known as Mangalyaan, which means “Mars-craft” in Sanskrit, was launched in early November 2013 on a shoestring budget compared to other space missions. All up, it’s estimated that it cost about $74 million, compared to NASA’s $671 million Maven Mars orbiter mission, which launched at around the same time.
Mangalyaan has been something of a success story for the ISRO. It was the country’s first attempt at an interplanetary mission, and an ambitious one at that. Mars serves as the next major milestone in space exploration, and India is the first country to succeed in reaching the planet’s orbit in its first attempt. More than half of all attempts to reach Mars fail and India not only got it right on its first attempt, it did so at record cost.
Mangalyaan reached Mars orbit in September 2014 and since then it has been monitoring the red planet, studying its atmosphere and particle environment. It’s also been surveying the surface of Mars, sending back images taken with its Thermal Infrared Spectrometer and tricolour Mars Colour Camera.
3D view of the Ophir Chasma terrain. ISRO
The most recent, snapped on July 19, 2015, shows a portion the Ophir Chasma, a deep canyon about 317km (197 miles) in length and 62km (38.5 miles) in width.
“The word chasma has been designated by the International Astronomical Union to refer to an elongate, steep-sided depression,” the ISRO wrote on its website.
“Ophir Chasma is part of the largest canyon system in the solar system known as Valles Marineris. The walls of the chasma contain many layers and the floors contain large deposits of layered materials. This image is taken on 19th July 2015 at an altitude of 1,857 km (1,154 miles) with a resolution of 96 megapixels.”
The project’s primary objective, while also aimed at collecting data from Mars, is to serve as a demonstration of India’s ability to develop and implement interplanetary space technology.
You can check out more photos snapped by Mangalyaan on the ISRO website.