India’s Mangalyaan Creates History; Successfully Enters Mars Orbit

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India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft ‘Mangalyaan’ successfully entered the Martian orbit late Tuesday. India created history by becoming the first country to reach the red planet in its very first attempt, something not even the U.S. and Russia could accomplish. BN Ramakrishna, deputy operations director for the mission, told BBC, “it was like hitting a golf ball from Bangalore to London and getting it into the hole in one go.”

India’s Mars mission cost less than Hollywood movie ‘Gravity’

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said its mission execution was “flawless.” The 1,350kg space traveled over 415 million miles in the last ten months. The robotic probe executed its 24-minute engine burn successfully, which slowed it down enough to be captured by Martian gravity. Though India is the first Asian country to reach Mars, United States, Europe and Russia have already sent missions to the red plant.

Other Asian countries have tried in the past. Japan’s attempt in 1999 was a failure. China’s Yinghuo-1 million, launched in 2011, crashed a year later. Mangalyaan (Hindi for Mars-craft) is one of the cheapest interplanetary missions ever. It cost a total of $71 million, less than the $100 million budget of Hollywood movie Gravity and about 10% of what NASA spent on its MAVEN spacecraft. Maven reached the Martian orbit two days before Mangalyaan.

Mangalyaan a ‘landmark progress’

The robotic probe will soon start studying the Martian atmosphere. It will be looking for traces of methane gas, which could provide evidence of life on Mars. U.S. space agency NASA congratulated its Indian counterpart, ISRO, in a tweet. Experts say the low-cost but highly efficient mission will help ISRO snatch a bigger share of the $300 billion global space market.

China congratulated India for its successful mission. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said it was not only a proud moment for India and Asia but also a “landmark progress” in human exploration of outer space. Besides studying the Mars atmosphere, Mangalyaan will also be sending pictures of the red planet to Earth.

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