Happy 1st Birthday Mangalyaan!

Who’s a year old then?

Blowing candles might be a little beyond the average one year old – but this one year old overcame an encounter with a comet a short while ago. The Siding Spring comet (I know, who names these things, right?), got close enough to baby Mangalyaan for ISRO to have to re-plan its course. You know, a lot like moving furniture out of the way of an active toddler. The orbiter was safely sent to the opposite side of the planet when Siding Spring travelled within 82,000 miles of Mars on October 19th. That is about a third of the distance between us and the Moon. The closest comet to fly past Earth was at least ten times further away.

Such a close encounter means the dust tail following the comet grazed Mars’s upper atmosphere. The smallest particles are only about a half millimeter across, but even these could have severely damaged Mangalyaan when rushing in at 35 miles per second. Interestingly the space craft also wanted to collect the dust as this is some of the oldest matter in the universe!


Happy 1st year, MOM!

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