Chennai: The severe cyclonic storm "Helen" hurtling towards Andhra Pradesh coast has been captured by India's Mars orbiter in the first image of the country beamed back in its maiden mission to the red planet. "Mangalyaan" has beamed back the first set of pictures of Earth, capturing the Indian subcontinent and parts of Africa, Isro said here on Thursday.
The storm, captured on Tuesday, is expected to hit the southern Andhra coast tomorrow. "We are checking the equipment on board the spacecraft. This picture is from Mars Color Camera, fitted on Mars orbiter spacecraft taken on Tuesday at 1.50pm from over 67,975km altitude with a resolution of 3.53km," Isro sources told.
Asked whether the picture was planned since the mission is to Mars, the sources said this was part of checking the equipment on board the spacecraft. Though the national space agency has received more than one picture, it has released only one on its official website.
The picture has captured the Indian subcontinent and parts of Africa, especially Cyclone Helen, hovering off the Andhra Pradesh coast. This is the first time after launch that an instrument on board has been checked for its operation. The India Meteorological Department(IMD) said "Helen" will cross the AP coast on Friday and bring very heavy rainfall under its influence.
Earlier, Isro had performed all five orbit raising manoeuvres planned on the Mars orbiter and raised the apogee of the spacecraft to over 192,000km. After the successful completion of these operations, the Mars Orbiter Mission is expected to take on the "crucial event" of the trans-Mars injection around 12.42am on December 1.
It will reach the red planet's orbit by September 24, 2014 after an over 10 month voyage. Isro's PSLV C 25 successfully injected the 1,350kg "Mangalyaan" orbiter (Mars craft) into the orbit around the earth some 44 minutes after a text book launch at 2.38pm from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on November 5, marking the successful completion of the first stage of the Rs 450 crore mission.