Mission designer Ritu Karidhal, Minal Rohit and Moumita Dutta are all women scientist working for the Indian Space Research Organisation, and they have one thing in common.
They are the trio that helped in the launch of India’s first mission to Mars.
When the rocket was launched on November 5, 2013, toward Mars, it was India’s first interplanetary mission called the Mangalyaan and it was also a terrific gamble.
The gamble paid off when the mission control received the signal that it had reached its target, that is it was in orbit around Mars.
Consider that only 40 percent of missions sent to Mars by major space organizations — NASA, Russia’s, Japan’s, or China’s — had ever been a success.
No space organization had succeeded on its first attempt. What’s more, India’s space organization, ISRO, had very little funding: while NASA’s Mars probe, Maven, cost $651 million, the budget for this mission was $74 million.
In comparison, the budget for the movie “The Martian” was $108 million. Oh, and ISRO sent off its rocket only 18 months since work on it began. wrote Ipsita Agarwal on her publishing platform Backchannel.com on Medium.com.
When ISRO announced the Mars mission in 2012, its primary objective was to build a capability to enter Mars’ gravity, and once there, conduct scientific experiments.
The orbiter could carry 5 sensors to carry out scientific experiments. The caveat: they would have to weigh under 15 kilograms, or 33 pounds, put together.
Moumita knew sensors. Now, she was tasked with building and testing a first-of-its-kind scientific instrument to detect methane on Mars.
It turns out the sensor Moumita worked on couldn’t have been more timely. In 2014, NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity, detected a spike in methane in its immediate surroundings.
Read more here: India’s women scientists who helped launch the Mars mission