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India's space odyssey with Mars on Facebook
Wednesday November 6, 2013 10:27 AM, IANS

As India's space probe got into the Earth's orbit Tuesday for a nine-month long odyssey to Mars, the popular social media site Facebook will keep you posted on its adventurous voyage to the red planet.

"We have opened an account on Facebook to regularly update the public on our Orbiter spacecraft during its journey to Mars and its scientific observations for over six months from Sep 24, 2014," a top space agency official told IANS.

As the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) will last at least 16 months, the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) wants to sustain the interest of the people in its maiden interplanetary exploration and keep them informed.

"We want the people to live with us on this fascinating mission to Mars through the long journey and later when our spacecraft orbits the Red Planet, 250 million miles away," ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan said.

The 1.3-tonne Orbiter has five scientific instruments onboard, including a thermal infrared sensor to find methane (gas) in the Martian atmosphere and map its sources for ascertaining if the red planet has life to inhabit later.

"People can access all the information, data and pictures on Facebook through our official website (, as we will be updating the account every three-four hours," Radhakrishnan noted.

Within hours after the rocket was launched from the spaceport at Sriharikota, about 80 km north east of Chennai, the space agency's Facebook account became a terrific hit, getting a whopping 82,000 likes till late Tuesday and 24,145 netizens talking about the mission since the site was launched Oct 22 when the D-day was fixed.

"We want to ensure that people will not forget about the mission days after launch and because the Orbiter will take over nine months to cruise towards Marian orbit by Sep 2014. They can simply access Facebook and know what's happening to the mission in the interplanetary space anytime and from anywhere," the rocket scientist said.

As the social networking site is interactive and accessible to all netizens, including the space community worldwide, their comments, views, observations and suggestions will be welcome as much as constructive criticism.

"We will also post an update regularly on the health of the spacecraft despite 20-45 minute communication gap in receiving signals from the Orbiter and sending commands to it for manoeuvres due to the long distance and long journey towards Mars," Radhakrishnan pointed out.

Updating on the mission late Tuesday, the space agency posted that "all subsystems have been powered 'on' in orbit. Health of the spacecraft is confirmed normal".

About 90 minutes after Orbiter was injected into the Earth's elliptical orbit, one of the posts said, "Solar panel and reflector deployments have been completed successfully and the spacecraft has achieved the first orbit of 246.9 km perigee (nearest to Earth) and 23,566.69 km apogee (farthest from Earth)."

The spacecraft also made contact with the two terminals on board the twin ships Nalanda and Yamuna in the South Pacific Ocean near Fiji Island.

Indian cricket all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja was one of the earliest to post on the launch says: "ISRO's Mars mission is the cheapest so far, just Rs.450 crore, i.e., Rs.12 per km, equivalent to auto fare. Truly Indian."

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