Indian spacecraft reaches Mars on maiden attempt
India became the first nation to reach Mars on its maiden attempt yesterday when its low-cost Mangalyaan spacecraft successfully entered orbit around the Red Planet after a 10-month journey.
India has successfully reached Mars... History has been created today, a jubilant Prime Minister Narendra Modi said from mission control after entry into orbit was confirmed at 8:02am (0232 GMT).
We have dared to reach out into the unknown and have achieved the near impossible, he added amid raucous cheering from scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisations base near Bangalore.
The success of the mission, which is designed to search for evidence of life on the Red Planet, is a huge source of national pride for India as it leaves its Asian rivals, including China, in the shade.
India now joins an elite club of the United States, Russia and Europe who can boast of reaching Mars. More than half of all missions to the planet have ended in failure, including Chinas in 2011 and Japans in 2003.
No single nation had previously succeeded at its first go, although the European Space Agency, which represents a consortium of countries, did also pull it off at its first attempt.
Now Mangalyaan has reached Mars, the probe is expected to study the planet's surface and scan its atmosphere for methane, which could provide evidence of some sort of life form.
Mangalyaan is carrying a camera, an imaging spectrometer, a methane sensor and two other scientific instruments.
At just US$74 million, the mission cost is less than the estimated $100 million budget of the sci-fi blockbuster Gravity. That figure also represents just a fraction of NASA's MAVEN spacecraft which successfully began orbiting the fourth planet from the sun on Sunday.
Indian engineers employed an unusual slingshot method for Mangalyaan s (Hindi for Mars vehicle) interplanetary journey which began when it blasted off on November 5 last year.
Lacking enough rocket to blast directly out of Earth's atmosphere and gravitational pull, it orbited the Earth for several weeks while building up enough velocity to break free.
Despite the complications, scientists had been increasingly confident of success and mission director M. Annadurai said on Tuesday that all was going to plan.
Everything is going on smoothly as programmed and the spacecraft's health is normal, said Annadurai.
Observers say it is the per- fect opportunity to showcase Indias technological prowess as well as a chance for some one- upmanship on its rival Asian superpower.
Its a low-cost technology demonstration, said Pallava Bagla, who has written a book on Indias space programme.
Staff from the Indian Space Research rganisation in angalore celebrate after the Mars rbiter Spacecraft successfully entered the planet s orbit yesterday. AFP VNA Photo