Mars Orbiter Mission was closest to comet Siding Spring

Comet at MarsIsro’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is healthy compared to other spacecrafts despite being closest to comet Siding Spring when it flew past the Red Planet on Sunday night.

On Monday, MOM tweeted: “Phew! Experience of a lifetime. Watched the #MarsComet #SidingSpring Whizzing past the planet. I’m in my orbit, safe and sound.”

Kiran Kumar, director of Isro’s Ahmedabad-based Space Application Centre, told TOI MOM’s five payloads were active when the comet made the 90-minute flyby. But, after the closest approach to Mars, they were deactivated for three hours. “We did a post-event check of the spacecraft and noted that it is healthy and normal despite it being closest to the comet,” he said.

Kumar said the MOM team is eagerly awaiting the data about the comet, which the spacecraft has gathered. It is expected to be downloaded from Monday night onwards. The Mars Colour Camera has taken a photo of the comet and the Methane Sensor For Mars sniffed for methane.

According to space-related website, at the time of the comet’s closest approach, the distance between MOM and the comet was 88,222 km. It said orbiters of other space agencies were more than 1,35,000 km from the comet.

Kumar said MOM will now be operating in a 400 km x 72,000 km orbit, which he added was good.

MOM scientists and their counterparts attached to Nasa’s MAVEN will collaborate in analyzing data about the comet.

Astronomy website provided a live webcast of the flyby from Thursday to Monday. The website connected ground-based telescopes to the internet for public access.

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