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1. Theme – Understanding the environment of Mars
Recent success of 'Mangalyan' (Mars Orbitor Mission) has made all of us proud of our scientists and engineers. The study of Mars' environment will help us in understanding more about our own environment. This text gives inputs on environment of Mars which can be correlated to the concepts learned by the students in class IX Science. The students are not supposed to memorize the facts and figures mentioned in the text, rather study the facts and figures with the above objectives in mind.

Fig. 1: Mars Orbiter Mission Spacecraft getting in to Large Space Simulation Chamber for Testing

Mars Orbiter Mission (M.O.M)
Mars tugs at the human imagination like no other planet. The conditions in Mars are believed to be hospitable since the planet is similar to earth in many ways. Mars and Earth have almost equal period of revolution around the axis. Mars takes 24 hours and 37 minutes to complete equal period of revolution around the axis. While Earth takes approximately 365 days to orbit round the Sun, Mars takes 687 days for an orbit around the Sun. The gravity of Mars is roughly one-third to Earth’s gravity and it has a thin atmosphere with a pressure of 1% that of Earth. The atmosphere, water, ice and geology interact with each other to produce dynamic Martian environment as in Earth. Mars has surface features reminiscent of both the impact craters of the Moon, volcanoes, deserts and


polar ice of Earth. It inspires visions of an approachable world. For ages, humans have been speculating about life on Mars. But the question that is to be still answered is whether Mars has a biosphere or ever had an environment in which life could have evolved and sustained. Mars Orbiter Mission is ISRO’s first interplanetary mission to planet Mars with an orbiter craft designed to orbit Mars in an elliptical orbit. The mission is primarily a technological mission considering the critical mission operations and stringent requirements on propulsion and other bus systems of spacecraft. It has been configured to carry out observation of physical features of mars and carry out limited study of Martian atmosphere with following five payloads:  Mars Colour Camera (MCC)  Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS)  Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM)  Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA)  Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP) The ‘Mangalyan’ or Mars Orbiter Spacecraft started its journey on 1 st December 2013 and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has been able to successfully do Mars Orbit Insertion operation on 24th September 2014. The trajectory (path) of travel of MOM is shown below.

Fig. 2: The Trajectory of Travel of MOM

Time to celebrate
It is a great moment to all of us. The Following Press Release from ISRO gives us the gist of our accomplishment.


September 24, 2014

Mars Orbiter Spacecraft Successfully Inserted into Mars Orbit

Fig. 3: Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi addressing from ISTRAC as ISRO Chairman Dr. K. Radhakrishnan looks on

India's Mars Orbiter Spacecraft successfully entered into an orbit around planet Mars today morning (September 24, 2014) by firing its 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) along with eight smaller liquid engines. This Liquid Engines firing operation which began at 07:17:32 Hrs IST lasted for 1388.67 seconds which changed the velocity of the spacecraft by 1099 metre/sec. With this operation, the spacecraft entered into an elliptical orbit around Mars. Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, was present at ISRO's Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore to witness this important event. The events related to Mars Orbit Insertion progressed satisfactorily and the spacecraft performance was normal. The Spacecraft is now circling Mars in an orbit whose nearest point to Mars (periapsis) is at 421.7 km and farthest point (apoapsis) at 76,993.6 km. The inclination of orbit with respect to the equatorial plane of Mars is 150 degree, as intended. In this orbit, the spacecraft takes 72 hours 51 minutes 51 seconds to go round the Mars once. Mars Orbiter Spacecraft was launched on-board India's workhorse launch vehicle PSLV on November 05, 2013 into a parking orbit around the Earth. On December 01, 2013, following Trans Mars Injection (TMI) manoeuvre, the spacecraft escaped from orbiting the earth and followed a path that would allow it to encounter Mars on September 24, 2014.


With today's successful Mars Orbit Insertion operation, ISRO has become the fourth space agency to successfully send a spacecraft to Mars orbit. In the coming weeks, the spacecraft will be thoroughly tested in the Mars orbit and the systematic observation of that planet using its five scientific instruments would begin.

Fig. 4: Mars Orbiter Spacecraft captures its first image of Mars, taken from a height of 7300 km

Fig. 5: Image taken using the Mars Colour Camera from an altitude of 8449 Km


Following are some facts on Mars available on the NASA website. The MoM may possibly verify the facts and get more information on Mars.

Mars Facts

Fig. 6: Picture of Mars

Mars Climate
Scientists think that the climate on Mars 3.5 billion years ago was similar to that of early Earth: warm and wet. But because of chemical reactions between Mars' carbon dioxide atmosphere and water, most of its carbon dioxide was used up forming carbonate rocks. Earth is big enough and active enough that it has plate tectonics which recycles this carbonate back to carbon dioxide. Mars is too small (10 times less massive than the earth) and does not have any recycling of its carbonate. So now the Mars atmosphere is very thin, the temperature is very cold, and what water remains is either frozen in the Martian poles as permafrost or hidden in deep underground springs. Mars' current climate changes drastically during the year. It has seasons similar to the Earth's due the tilt of its axis. But because its orbit around the Sun is elliptical; the distance from the Sun varies about by 20% depending on where it is in its annual orbit. The seasons in one hemisphere (South) are more extreme while in the other (north) they are less extreme.

The temperature on Mars may reach a high of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) at noon, at the equator in the summer, or a low of about -225 degrees Fahrenheit (-153 degrees Celsius) at the poles. Obviously this is very inhospitable for humans, but it is also of some concern


for the electronics and mechanical parts of a Mars airplane and its instrumentation. In the midlatitudes, the average temperature would be about -50 degrees Celsius with a nighttime minimum of -60 degrees Celsius and a summer midday maximum of about 0 degrees Celsius.

Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. This varies from day to day and depends on the temperature: warm air can hold more water vapor than cold air. Humidity is measured as a percentage of the maximum amount of water that the air can hold at a given temperature. The greater the difference between the two temperatures, the greater the evaporation. When there is a lot of evaporation, the air is drier and the humidity is low. The instrument used to measure humidity is called a psychrometer. On Mars, the air is saturated (100% humidity) at night, but under saturated during the day. This is because of the huge temperature difference between day and night. To demonstrate this:  Take a clean, dry jar and place the lid on it.  Allow to stand 10 minutes in a shaded area and observe.  Put it in a freezer for at least an hour. Remove and observe. (At room temperature, the air inside the jar was not saturated, but in the cold freezer the air could not hold much water-it became saturated-and the water condensed and formed frost.)

Occasionally, winds on Mars are strong enough to create dust storms that cover much of the planet. After such storms, it can be months before all of the dust settles. The maximum wind speeds recorded by the Viking Landers in the 1970's were about 30 meters per second (60 miles an hour) with an average of 10 m/s (20 mph). Just as on Earth, at certain latitudes, the winds tend to blow in certain directions. In Mars' northern mid-latitudes, wind blows from west to east just as it does in the United States. (Local variations of this can be caused by nearby mountains, large bodies of water, the season, etc.) Recent satellite images of Mars show that the dust storms have lessened, indicating that Mars winds have lessened, due to unknown causes. Scientists say that the planet is also getting colder.

Air Pressure
A barometer is used to measure air pressure. The average air pressure on Earth is 29.92 inches of mercury (or 1,013 millibars). This is more than 100 times Mars' average of 0.224 inches of mercury (7.5 millibars).


Air pressure is not the same everywhere on Earth. One reason is because temperature varies from place to place. When air heats up, air molecules move faster, pushing each other away and causing air to expand. With fewer molecules in the same amount of space, the air in that space weighs less: it exerts less pressure on the Earth. Cold air molecules are packed closer and exert more pressure on the Earth. At any given location on Earth, the air pressure can vary about 10% whereas on Mars it can vary by as much as 50%. Mars' atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide and therefore behaves differently than Earth's mostly nitrogen and oxygen atmosphere. Changing air pressure is experienced as ears pop going up and down mountains or when flying in airplanes. Meteorologists, who try to predict the weather, know that a higher than average pressure reading usually brings fair weather while low pressure usually brings stormy weather. We live on the bottom of an ocean of air. Air has weight and exerts pressure on us as a result of its weight. On each square inch of our bodies, there are 14.7 pounds of pressure. On the entire human body surface, the total air pressure varies from 10 to 20 tons! Just as ocean animals are not crushed by the weight of water above them, we are not crushed by the weight of the air because the inner pressure of our bodies pushing out equalizes the air pressure pushing down on us.

Linking to what you have learnt
Let’s see the beautiful picture of our earth, the ‘Mangalyan’ captured on its Mars Mission. You may try to connect the information given above to what you have learnt in the Unit IV: Our Environment.

Fig. 7: Picture of Earth captured by Mangalyan on its Mission


Table 1: Mars Atmosphere (composition) Carbon dioxide (95.32%) Nitrogen (2.7%) Argon (1.6%) Oxygen (0.13%) Water vapour (0.03%) Nitric oxide (0.01%) 7.5 millibars (average) Valles Marineris 7 km deep 4,000 km wide 227,936,637 kilometers 3,397 kilometers 0.375 that of Earth Olympus Mons 26 km high 602 km in diameter 24 hours, 37 minutes 687 Earth days Covered with a mixture of carbon dioxide ice and water ice - 63 degrees C 25 degrees 2 (Phobos and Deimos) Earth Nitrogen (77%) Oxygen (21%) Argon (1%) Carbon dioxide (0.038%) Water vapour (1%) 1.013 millibars (at sea level) Grand Canyon 1.8 km deep 400 km long 149,597,891 kilometers 149,597,891 kilometers 6,378 kilometers 2.66 times that of Mars Mauna Loa (Hawaii) 10.1 km high 121 km in diameter Just slightly under 24 hours 365 days Permanently covered with water ice 14 degrees C 23.45 degrees 1 (Moon)

Atmosphere (pressure) Deepest Canyan

Distance from Sun (average) Equatorial Radius Gravity Largest Volcano Length of Day Length of Year Polar Caps Surface Temperature (average) Tilt of Axis Number of Satellites

Sample Questions
1. 2. Suggest an experiment to check the presence of atmosphere on Mars. Explain the role of atmosphere in the climate of a planet. (5) From the information given above, differentiate between the environment of Earth and Mars. (3) 3. How will the concerns of our environment be addressed from the inputs of Mars Orbiter Mission? (2)

Marking Scheme:
1. Any one experiment to prove the presence of atmosphere e.g. use of syringe. Role of atmosphere in temperature, rain, humidity, air pressure, wind etc. (5)


2. 3.

Comparison of environment between mars and earth which may include, composition of air, temperature, humidity, wind etc. (3) Objective of MoM, possible achievements correlating information with concerns of environment. (2)

Note: To be assessed as a whole as per total weightage of marks.

1. 2. 3. retrieved on 28/9/14 Sep24_2014 retrieved on 28/9/14 retrieved on 28/9/2014


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