[Space] ISRO Mars Orbiter Mission (MoM) Mangalyaan: Payloads, Purpose, Argument favor & against

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Unacademy Plus Mrunal Economy for Prelims and Mains UPSC!
  1. Prologue
  2. Mars Planet: Basics
  3. Mars: Past missions
  4. MoM (ISRO) vs MAVEN (NASA)
    1. MoM’s Launch Vehicle
    2. MoM @Mars
    3. Payloads and purpose?
  5. Do we need Mars Mission?
    1. Anti-Arguments
    2. Pro-arguments
      1. #1: cash will be recovered
      2. #2: Soft Power
      3. #3: Did not steal from poor’s month
      4. #4: Making History
      5. #5: Misc.
  6. Mock Questions
  7. Correct Answers for the MCQs


  • Old article, just updating a few bits after Mangalyaan reached Mars in September 2014.
  • There is no dearth of ball by ball commentary and technical articles in newspaper, but for the exam focus should be on: basics, purpose, pros and cons.
  • Otherwise September seems to be the busiest and tiresome month of 2014 for competitive aspirants- Modi Government launching a new scheme-committee-initiative every day, SC giving a new landmark verdict every day, newspapers are littered with columns on foreign relations, Ebola, Mars, ISIS, J&K floods, Scotland and what not.

Mars Planet: Basics

  • Has two moons: Phobos and Deimos
  • 4th planet from Sun
  • 2nd smallest planet in the Solar system after Mercury.
  • Diameter: ~6800 kms (Mars); Earth (~12700 kms)
  • Volume wise, ~8 Mars would fit inside our Earth.
  • One Martian day: 24 hours 37 minutes
  • One Martian year: 687 days
  • Mars is also tilted on its axis (25 degrees).
  • Mars gravity 1/10th of Earth.
  • When Sun and Mars are in opposite direction, it can be easily observed from Earth.
How far is Mars from Earth?
shortest farthest
56 million kms 400 million kms, when both are on opposite sides of solar system.

Mars: Past missions

List is not exhaustive
USSR Mars orbiter (70s) USSR: Korabl series, Mars 1969 series, Phobos Grunt

  • Marine series (~mid 60s)
  • Viking series (mid 70s)
  • Pathfinder (~mid 90s)
  • Rovers: Spirt, Opportunity (2003)
  • Phoenix (2007)
  • Curiosity (2011)
  • Maven (2013-14)
USA  Mariner series before mid-60s
European Space Agency (2003) Beagal lender (although images lost) Japan’s Nozomi- failed to enter Mars orbit (1998-2003)
ISRO’s Mars Orbitor Mission (2013-14)


ISRO’s MoM NASA’s Maven
Mars Orbitor Mission Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN)
launch vehicle=PSLV Atlas V rockets. (more powerful than PSLV)
launched on 5th Nov 2013 18th Nov 2013
reached Mars on 24th Sep 2014 Reached Mars on 21st Sep 2014.
launched from Sriharikota, Andhra launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida, US.
Rs.450 crore $671 million
~1,350 kg ??
Doing three studies:

  1. Surface/geology: using camera and spectrometer.
  2. (Particle) Environment: using MENCA
  3. Atmosphere: using Photometer and Methane sensor
  • Only study Martian (upper) atmosphere.
  • based on that data: It’ll give clues about martian climate, geologic, and geochemical conditions over time
  • Will find the answer: Did Mars ever had suitable environment to support life?
has five instruments/payloads has eight instrument- spectrograph, magnetometer, ion analyzer etc.
The spacecraft may also provide communications relay support for future Mars landers and rovers.

MoM’s Launch Vehicle

Polar satellite launch vehicle Geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle
Can carry upto 1600 kg satellite 2500kg

ISRO had used PSLV XL (C25) launch vehicle to launch the Mangalyaan (Mars spacecraft). Why?

  1. At that time, GSLV tests were not successful. Last time they tried GSLV to launch GSAT-14 satellite and failed because of fuel leak. (Aug 2013)
  2. Mangalyaan weighs ~1300 kg. PSLV can easily carry this weight.
  3. PSLV is tried and tested technology.


  • MoM/Mangalyaan: first Indian spacecraft to cross Earth’s escape velocity of 11.2 km per second.
  • Mangalyaan traveled for ~300 days, covering ~65 crore kilometers, and reached Martian orbit in September 2014.
  • Mangalyan is not the fastest spacecraft to reach Mars. Others are far ahead of It, in terms of speed. For example- European Space Agency’s Mars mission (2003) reached Mars in  ~210 days.
  • MoM cost 7 rupees per kms to reach Mars.

MoM @Mars

  • Nov 2013: MoM Launched from Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh
  • Sep 2014: MoM reached Mars orbit
MoM in Mars Orbit
Periapsis: nearest point ~420 kms
Apoapsis: farthest point ~77,000 kms
time to finish one circle of Mars ~73 hours / ~ 3 days.
Orbit inclination 150 degrees

Payloads and purpose?

ISRO Mars Mission Mangalyan Payloads

Q. What is the purpose of sending MoM?

Ans.  To find out composition of Mar’s SAM (Surface – Atmosphere – Minerals), using five payloads/instruments:

Study Mars Payload detail
Surface 1.Color Camera
  • Mars Color camera.
  • Study surface, dust storms etc.
  • Take photos of Mar’s satellites: Phobos and Deimos.
Atmosphere 2.MENCA Gandhi
  • Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer.
  • To study neutral gas atoms in the Martian atmosphere.
3.Methane Sensor
  • Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM).
  • If methane + water detected=possible that at some point of time, Mars had supported life form.
  • Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP).
  • To Measure hydrogen and deuterium.
  • Deuterium = heavier than hydrogen.Water made from heavy hydrogen is heavier and hence it evaporates differently.
  • Knowing Hydrogen : Deuterium ratio will help  answer how did water vanish from Mars?
Minerals 5.Spectrometer
  • Thermal Infrared Imaging spectrometer (TIS). To study mineral resources of Mars
  • And to help UPSC update its Mains GS1 syllabus: Distribution of key natural resources across the Earth AND Mars.


  • ISRO Telemetry, Tracking & Command Network @Banglore.
  • Previously tracked and commanded Chandrayaan-1
  • Now doing the same for Mars orbiter.

Do we need Mars Mission?

(For Group Discussion GD/Interview)


  1. Crores of rupee wasted- could be used to feed millions of hungry people in India. Millions of children suffering from malnutrition, half the junta doesn’t have toilets- Modi himself highlighting this issue in his every speech.
  2. Better get those thousands of ISRO scientists and engineers to comeup with new technology to fix malnutrition and malnutrition.
  3. ISRO’s budget is better spent to meet India’s communication needs and bring down digital divide.
  4. Even Airtel has sued ISRO for not meeting its contract obligations. So, ISRO better focus on present rather than doing some mars research whose benefits can materialize may be after 100-200 years.
  5. ISRO has installed a fancy methane detector in this spacecraft. But NASA’s curiosity rover data has already concluded that Mars environment doesn’t contain methane. ISRO is only doing gaddha majoori (donkey labour). Counter argument: NASA’s Curiosity rover measured presence of methane in a small area. But ISRO will scan entire Martian environment to detect Methane.
  6. GSLV testing has not giving positive result yet. Had they waited for GSLV testing to finish- Mars Mission could be done in 2016. (Even Chandrayan-2 project is stalled due to this GSLV problem). But  it seems ISRO chairman wants media publicity before retiring, so made he all the haste to launch Mars Mission in 2013 using PSLV (instead of GSLV).
  7. Less of a scientific pursuit and more of a space race with China- ‘me too’ going on Mars. First India should overtake China in terms of GDP and poverty removal.
  8. Britain, Japan, World Bank etc. reduce the donation to India thinking “since India has lot of money of run such Mars adventures, they must have money to take care of their poors as well.”

(To drag the argument further non-seriously)

  1. This is just publicity stunt to divert attention from real issues. Earlier Chandryaan found traces of water on Moon, then Aaj-tak etc. Hindi channels ran 24/7 reports for weeks. In the meantime government can go scot free with bigger scams and inflation.
  2. And most importantly, the youngsters have to mugup one more stupid topic for the competitive exams. The financial cost of combined man-hours wasted in studying such topics= alone worth 13% of GDP, so much for Demographic dividend.


#1: cash will be recovered

At the core of “Anti” arguments= Cash that ISRO has wasted in this Mars project. But in reality it’s an investment that will be recovered within a few decades, How?

  1. Many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are seeing good economic growth. But they lack skilled manpower, technology and budget to setup their own launch vehicles and premier space agencies.
  2. But they too need satellites for communication and military. So, they outsource the satellite launch/survey work to established players.
  3. ISRO’s commercial Arm ANTRIX makes annual profit of ~100 crore rupees from such ‘outsourced’ contracts.
  4. ISRO spent only 450 crore rupees. NASA has spent billions of dollars on Mars.  This Makes ISRO world-famous as a prudent cost saving space agency= more clients via its commercial arm ANTRIX = more money incoming.

So, we can see this Mars mission as ISRO’s 450 crore rupees advertisement / PR campaign- to impress those potential ‘clients’ and get more contracts=> money will be recovered and profit will be made.

#2: Soft Power

As ISRO establishes reputation, gets more contracts from third world- it can be used as a tool to exercise soft power. How?

give take
  • personnel /technology exchange programs with developing countries
  • giving discounts on their space projects/infrastructure
  • their support for India’s claim to Permanent seat in UNSC
  • their votes in our favour whenever Kashmir/Arunachal issues popup in UN General Assembly
  • Oil-gas exploration contracts in their territory …and so on.

In short, there is more to international relations than what meets the eyes. 450 crore is a very petty amount to accomplish many diplomatic victories- [compared to the thousands of crore rupees we’ve given to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan via “soft” loans so they don’t shelter terrorists and secessionists on their soil.]

#3: Did not steal from poor’s month

  1. Government spends barely ~0.35% of budget on space programs. And even out of that ~0.35% allocation, ISRO spent only 8% on Mars Missions. There are plenty of government schemes with way bigger budgetary allotments for poor people. So it’s not like government stopped/reduced expenditure on some xyz scheme for poors to fund ISRO’s Mars adventure.
  2. Agreed, poverty should be removed, and everyone must get food security. But the proposed food security bill will need ~1-2 lakh crores rupees every year.
  3. Even If ISRO didn’t spend 450 crores on Mars, the money thus saved- won’t make a big contribution to food security anyways.

#4: Making History

  • Until now, only three agencies had succeeded in Mars Mission
    1. European Space Agency (ESA) of European consortium,
    2. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US
    3. Roscosmos of Russia
    4. And ISRO became the fourth one.
  • Even USA, Japan and China failed to reach mars in their first attempt.
  • Overall, 51 missions made so far, only 21 have succeeded.
  • ISRO’s Mars mission succeeded in its first attempt (that too without coaching), hence it’s a milestone in the history of space explorations.
  • Even China has applauded this event as “pride of Asia”.

#5: Misc.

  1. Will attract talented desi scientist/engineers to join ISRO. Thus, braindrain will decline.
  2. Data gathered from ISRO’s mission, can be used to send manned mission (astronauts) on Mars later, with collaboration of NASA etc.
  3. The technology used in this mission has potential application in weather forecast, computer tech, health-medicine etc. in future.
  4. Space research is not waste of time. 1999 Odisha cyclone killed >10000 people. But 2013 cyclone Phalin killed very few, because Indian satellite gave accurate weather prediction about where and when the storm would hit. Space research has given immense benefits to Agriculture, education, fisheries and defense. (Counter argument: then send more weather/education satellites- not spacecraft’s to Moon and Mars!)
  5. Humanity would not have progressed, if we had not taken such leaps into the unknown. And space is indeed the biggest unknown out there.

Mock Questions

Q1. Mars is larger / higher than Earth in terms of

  1. gravity
  2. diameter
  3. no. of moons
  4. days in a year

Correct choices

  1. All of them
  2. Only 3 and 4
  3. Only 1, 3 and 4
  4. None of them

Q2. Which of the following missions have failed to reach Mars?

  1. Viking
  2. Phobos
  3. Nozomi

Correct choices

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. All of them

Q3. Why did ISRO’s Mangalyaan or MoM used PSLV instead of GSLV as launch vehicle?

  1. PSLV can carry more weight than GSLV
  2. PSLV could carry MoM’s weight and had proven track record of success.
  3. Both A and B
  4. Neither A nor B

Q4. Similarities between ISRO’s MoM and NASA’s MAVEN missions?

  1. Both lack Land rovers
  2. Both aim to study Martian atmosphere
  3. Both were launched and reached Mars in the same months.

Correct statements are

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. All of them

Q5. What’s the purpose of ISRO’s Mars mission?

  1. Study its surface
  2. study its atmosphere
  3. Study its mineral composition

Correct statements are

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. All of them

Q6. Incorrect pairs of ISRO Mars payloads vs. purpose

  1. MENCA: Methane and Natural gas
  2. Spectrometer: study surface and dust storms
  3. Photometer: Study Hydrogen and deuterium

Answer choices

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. None of them


  1. “India, a country faced with plethora of socio-economic problems, should not involve in space race with developed countries.” Do you agree? Justify your stand. 200 words
  2. Discuss the importance of ISRO’s MoM Mission as a milestone event in the space exploration programs of India. 200 words.
  3. Write an Essay: The hunger of exploration and the thrill of discovery are not for the faint-hearted.

Correct Answers for the MCQs

  1. B: only 3 (moons) and 4 (year)
  2. B: 2 and 3 phobos and nazomi
  3. only B
  4. D all correct
  5. D study SAM: Surface-atmosphere –minerals
  6. A: 1 and 2 wrong. MENCA is for neutral gas, not Natural gas.
Indian History Freedom Struggle Pratik Nayak

54 Comments on “[Space] ISRO Mars Orbiter Mission (MoM) Mangalyaan: Payloads, Purpose, Argument favor & against”

  1. sir please provide study materials for Ibps General awareness.

  2. Mrunal Ur Gujarati?? I want materials in Gujarati if u have any materials in Gujarati


  4. one martian day is 24 hours 37 min. ok
    one year 687 days ok
    number of days 687*24 / 48 around 343 days only
    then how number of days will be higher for mars than earth ?
    please help !!!!!!!

    1. k a narayanan as far as i think mars takes 24 hr and 37 mins to rotate abt its own axis (day). and it takes 687 days for 1 revolution around sun hence a year… so it is not related to earth.

    2. Mars is the fourth planet so it is more far away from sun as compared to earth. Now you know what is revolution(no of days in a year)! Its time taken by a planet to complete one round sun and this depends on the distance from the sun as well the as the rotational speed. As mars is more distant from the sun and the rotational speed is also less than the earth so more days in a year.

  5. The major anti argument is that while we have all the technology to go to the Mars…..We don’t have enough technology so that people don’t have to clean shit with their bare hands (removal of dry latrines starting point — Gujarat….PM’s state itself)….We all know the reason for it, because we don’t consider them as people at all….(For unaware people: Manual Scavenging is present in the so called Developed state of Gujarat!!!!!)

    We don’t have enough technology to make food accessible, while it rots in the godown…. etc.

    A developed nation doesn’t mean how many roads, bridges you have, or how many mars missions and satellites you send across….It mean how you treat the lowest strata of the society!!!!

    1. Good speech for a member of NGO who is earning his/her living out of showing compassion for poor and criticizing government for not implementing his impractical ideas. Every country needs self confidence and belief in itself. Had we not taken our space program seriously, Phalin would had brought havoc because western advanced technology predicted it all wrong. I consider it only as a technology demonstration, which will stimulate young minds to take scientific endeavor and pave the way for an innovation driven economy.Because for income distribution and social sector schemes you need Income first.

    2. why shud india’s developmental ,sci n innovation only b circumsribed to d domestic problems at home…though nt denying d urgency for d same…rather v shud help develop mechanisms so dat such research n devlpt is streamlined perfectly into our developmetal activities making governmental policies and schemes more effective and wide reaching.

    3. Ha ha ha left leaning argument,but we have every thing you demanded , the only thing lacking is political will ! which modi has initiated ,if all the CM’s of each state is as proactive as modi, that day is not far,but sadly our Politicians are not preparing for UPSC….. so chances are slim

    4. What age you are talking about? Your argument is like if Mohan is not having money to purchase a biscuit Sohan should leave studying science because. Social reforms and scientific missions are two different aspects. We can not stop one just because we are lagging in another. Scientific and technological advancement are ultimately beneficial for our people in short or long time. Example of mobile phone is here. Even Those manual scavengers are using these phones. So at all we can not stop our technology advancement for the upcoming social reforms which may take some longer time period in completion.
      It is not only good for our world wide impression but also a feel good factor for younger generation of our country. In future more young minds will start thinking of entering in Science and technology fields, all by these exciting success of the India made in various fields and like The China and Japan, advancing on the power of young generation and their ability in technology, we will be in the list of Developed countries.

      1. Come on…. The first endeavour of the GOI after independence was to bring into level the people of lowest strata and from that date till today we have achieved just miniscule. No doubt Scientific Missions are the need of the hour but even more important is the social upliftment of masses… I hope u vl be aware of the facts and figures related to marginal classes and their condition of living….. What is the achievement if we succed in space missions but on our own very planet in general and our nation in particular people lives in a horrible state

  6. Sir
    your did extremely good job for us,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,like Mom……………………………….{mars orbiter mission}

  7. Thank you very much sir…and i liked your prologue..!!!!

  8. Awesome article sir…

  9. pls upload the articles in PDF format so that we can have digital copy to read it offline

  10. Every technological advancement, if used positively, brings development and helps in countering socio-economic problems. When in 70s, India was making her forays in satellite technology, its implications were questioned. Now we know how helpful those small leaps have proved to be. Without those effort, we wouldn’t have been able to develop meteorological expertise for whether forcast or would have been able to map distribution of natural resources. These have augmented not just our agricultural production but has brought wholesome support for our poverty alleviation programs. MoM may not seem related to such benefits accrual but in coming time this will prove fruitful in our effort to be a participant in the global technological development, not just a mere beneficiary.

  11. After 68 yr of independence india must know their enemy and friends, we provide satellite to israel to monitor if iran is aggresively trying nuclear arms against israel or not (its coz israel has helped us in war in 1971 and in Kargill). It is our strength that we also take 11% of oil from iran and also has good relationship with israel, although both of them are like india and pakistan.

    It is also very fascinating to know that we provide satellite space to qatar (who gives us lot of oil even more economical then saudi arabia as i riyaadhi = 17 rupees), although we all know qatar support hamas which is bombarding israel for the palestine cause.
    We are israel biggest exporter for arms supply may be because of that reason i.e. their bussiness and our multilateral credential they are our best friend in the world in times of needs. Now israel has clearly told that oil and gas found in its mediterrian sea can be extracted by only indian companies who have no association with israel (so Essar, kochin refinery can’t bid)..

    We must understand our strength, if satellite is our strength we must attract more than 100 countries (except those who hates us) and it has potential of more than $5 billion revenue from coming 5-10 years. Its like India will give satellite space for lets say (5 satellite in one PSLV, 5 satellite in one GSLV) if you are ready to give FDI to us (min. $0.5 billion in Export oriented industry) at Rs 1 = 1 US$. So what i mean is we don’t charge but ensure that they give us FDI at Rs1 = Rs US$.

    This may attract people from african countries and other developing country to start their satellite dreams. India being very open linquistic country has advantage.

    So like Vivekananda quoted Strength is God and Weakness is Death.
    So i am talking about Recognising this great Strength (i.e. satellite space). finally SWOT analysis will tell you the opportunity and strength bigger than weakeness and threat.

    Sorry guys I become to foreign policy towards satellite and stuff..This is purely personal opinion based on facts and understanding.

    1. grt analysis keep it up

  12. Thankyou sir
    u r awesome

  13. MENCA Gandhi! Awesome quips to keep things lively! In pro argument, its the same reason as why people want to conquer UPSC for public service which can also be done through NGOs and various other means. Its gives legitimacy to a less sceptical route from questioning eyes who doubts the capability to accomplish . Plus, it a menial amount in exchange for a boost to the country’s scientific prowess. On a practical note, we never know what info actually reveals itself in future and gets patented even before we can open our mouth to congratulate them. Plugging leakage of domestic funds will scoop up more than 450 crores easily.

  14. Mars gravity ~1/3rd of Earth not 1/10th

  15. Mrunal sir ..I m following u r article from couple of month ..so Is it better to substitute CSE.MAGAZINE with u r article ??

  16. m afraid that my IBPS PO nad SSC CGL dates clash. What am I supposed to do??
    M soo badly frustrated and down hearted too. I have been preparing for these two like anything since many months. I find myself lost since the moment I have seen my exam date. What kind of administration is this?? What should be done for this??

  17. minor mistake in the comments :-
    “who have no association with IRAN (so Essar, kochin refinery can’t bid).. “

  18. @mrunal – (Counter argument: then send more weather/education satellites- not spacecraft’s to Moon and Mars!) In exam if we know counter argument then we should leave that point otherwise thinking that counter point examiner will cut marks. Whats your take?

  19. Innovation is more important than knowledge and we have both. India should be more of an innovation driven economy which is possible only if our scientists and legislators work hand in hand for such level of technology demonstration. This is also have an impact on the society and kids to go for scientific excellence over grade based thinking in our education system.

  20. well designed especially for non-science background aspirants. just to say good is not suitable, it’s an excellent work. unforgettable and thank you mrunal team.

  21. Thanks a lot Sir…as always vry good article…:)

  22. Good job Mrunal. By the way it is 1999 cyclone in odisha.

  23. While writing mains answers like (India, a country faced with plethora of socio-economic problems, should not involve in space race with developed countries.” Do you agree? Justify your stand ) should i atleast mention points both pro and against ? Thanks

  24. Two more points.
    Oberth effect : before trans mars injection from earth marbit, MoM performed orbit raising maneuvers multiple times, to have maximum utilization of oberth effect.
    Hohmann transfer orbit: Special transfer orbit around sun to make interplanetary transfers. Hoffman transfer between earth and mars occurs in every two years. If mangalyaan was not launched in Nov 13 Isro has to wait another two years for this orbit. Minimum fuel consumption takes place in it.

  25. again a mnemonic to remeber MOM’s instruments name:
    Menka Gandhi, the Core Competitor(CC) in TIS (tata institute of social science) carries a Methane Sensor in her LAP.
    It goes like this…..
    1. Menka Gandhi : Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer (MENCA )
    2. Core Competitor : CC – Color camera
    3. Tata Institute of social.. : (TIS) Thermal Infrared Imaging spectrometer
    5. Methane Sensor
    6. in her LAP : Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP)

    1. Please read only 5 intrument in total. No 4 left by mistake.

  26. Thanks for this enriching and concise article.Sir,gravity on mars is somewhere around 3.71m/sec2 so it comes around 2.6th of earth,but u have mentioned 1/10th of earth….???

  27. yes u r right we have to develop but we too want people who have capabilities, thousands of indians are brain drained into us, uk, europe…. and currently are in top positions in corporate. being develop means getting people out of poverty, food security, sanitation, …. but it also means giving proper tools for the amount of potential people are having to harness . we don’t want people getting drained day by day . we also should look at that. and as provided if u compare the amount spent on space and human development program u don’t have to be genius to know that space<<<hdi. and also there's a whooping market containing countries that r developing and dream of sending satellite, and i think we should try to capture that also.

    but if we should go by your theory which says no satellite, focus on sanitation etc, than we should also don't have a defence budget of $38bn and nuclear arsenal, aircraft carriers, many more……….. u should know that to sell a product you should have a factory or an industry with a good ad campaign, and i think we've just done that.

  28. Thanks for this article Mrunal… was collecting info on this topic… you saved my time… god bless!

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