Telescope in Maharashtra tracks spacecraft’s Mars landing

Pune, Oct 20 (IANS) In a major achievement, the Giant Metre-wave Radio Telescope (GMRT) at Khodad in Pune tracked the landing of a European Space Agency’s spacecraft on a Mars mission, an official said on Thursday.

“On Wednesday evening from 7.04 p.m., the GMRT clearly detected and tracked the weak signal emanating from Schiaparelli EDM, all the way into the last phases of the descent of the module through the Martian atmosphere till 8.37 p.m.,” said GMRT Dean Yashwant Gupta.

To monitor the health of Schiaparelli’s Entry and Descent Module (EDM) during this crucial phase, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration had assigned the GMRT at Khodad, around 60 km from Pune, to act as a receiver station for this mission on behalf of the ExoMars Project, he added.

The EDM of the ExoMarch Project separated from the parent spacecraft, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), on Octobr 16 after a six-month journey from Earth.

It followed a trajectory that brought it to the point of entering the Martian atmosphere for a landing yesterday (October 19) evening, Gupta said.

“The six-minute journey through the (Martian) atmosphere is the most hazardous part of the project and many previous Mars lander missions have failed at this critical juncture,” Gupta explained.

–IANS

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