Costing less than the production of the movie, Gravity, India’s spacecraft Mangalyann now has a front row seat to the red planet. The image shows Mars from pole to pole and you can clearly see the planet’s southern ice cap. A monster dust storm blankets the top left portion of the planet.
The photo above is the third photo snapped by Mangalyann (Sanskrit for ‘Mars Craft’) since arriving to Mars last week. Mangalyann snapped the photo from a distance of 46,292 miles, just about the furthest point from Mars (49,710) it will get during its elliptical orbit. At its closest point, the Mangalyann will be just 227 miles from the planet as it studies Mars’ atmosphere. Check out Mangalyann’s first two photos below.
Much has been made about the price discrepancy between India’s Mars Mission ($74 million) and NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft ($672 million). It’s worth nothing NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft contains 65 kilos of instruments. Mangalyann has just 15 kilos. Still, it’s a great achievement for India’s spacecraft to get their orbiter in Mars orbit. That’s something of a rarity for a first try across all the space programs.
The Mangalyann mission is expected to last 6-12 months. In that period, it will analyze Mars’ atmosphere and surface using its five instruments. NASA’s MAVEN program has expressed interest with working alongside their Indian counterparts, as they too will analyze Mars’ atmosphere.