India has become the first country to reach Mars’ orbit on the first attempt. The Indian spacecraft nicknamed Mangalyaan, which means “Mars craft” in Hindi or the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) as it is more formally referred to, was launched back in November 2013 and finally reached its destination early Wednesday morning, making India the fourth country to place a satellite in Mars’ orbit. The US, Europe and Russia have already managed this challenging feat but India is the first country to complete it on the first attempt.
In reaching Mars’ orbit, India has beaten rival China, making it the first Asian country to successfully make it to the red planet’s orbit. What’s really incredible is that the mission cost ‘just’ $74 million, which as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi points outs, is less than the cost of making the movie Gravity.
“The odds were stacked against us,” Modi said at a press conference. “When you are trying to do something that has not been attempted before, it is a leap into the unknown. And space is indeed the biggest unknown out there.”
Managlyaan has enough fuel to last it approximately six months. In that time it will continue to orbit Mars, collecting data about the planet’s surface and atmosphere using five on-board scientific instruments. Although the spacecraft might not be as high-tech as those belonging to the U.S. and Russia, the fact that it made it to Mars’ orbit is still a significant achievement, with only twenty one of the previous fifty one attempts to reach Mars being successful.
Modi has outlined his plan to expand India’s space program, with the aim of being the leading supplier of low-cost technology.
[Image via Wikipedia]