Mangalyaan, India’s maiden Mars mission, successfully entered the planet’s orbit today, in a historic moment for India’s space programme. “History has been created,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who watched the spacecraft successfully enter the Mars orbit this morning.
India is the first country in the world to successfully enter the Mars orbit, after the Soviet Union, United States and Europe. “The odds were stacked against us. Of the 51 missions, attempted across the world so far, a mere 21 had succeeded. But we have prevailed in our first attempt,” said PM Modi.
Only NASA, the European Space Agency and the former USSR have been successful in their Mars missions. The first successful mission was by NASA’s Mariner 9 in 1971. The most recent failure was that of the Chinese Yinghuo-1 in 2011.
PM Modi lauded the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO for joining an elite group of only three other agencies worldwide to have successfully reached Red Planet.
NASA tweeted, “We congratulate @ISRO for its Mars arrival! @MarsOrbiter joins the missions studying the Red Planet.”
Mangalyaan, which is the size of a Tata Nano car, was launched on 11 May, 2013, aboard India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C25 rocket. The mission is meant to test India’s ability to place a craft in Martian orbit and technologies required for a future interplanetary mission. The MOM or Mars Orbiter Mission was conceived, planned and implemented by ISRO on a shoestring budget of Rs. 450 crores or $ 67 mn. “Even Hollywood movies cost more,” said Modi, who had earlier referenced the mega-budget space film “Gravity” to demonstrate his point.
Mangalyaan will explore the surface of Mars, its morphology, mineralogy and its atmosphere. Five solar-powered instruments aboard Mangalyaan will gather data to help determine how Martian weather systems work and what happened to the water that is believed to have once existed on the planet in large quantities. At its closest point, the orbiter will be 365 km from the planet’s surface, and at its furthest – 80,000 km.