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India’s First Mars Probe Enters Orbit

Crowded Space: With inexpensive mission’s success, the country joins three others

by Lisa Wilson
September 26, 2014

Credit: ISRO
India's first Mars bound spacecraft launched last November.
Launch of india’s mars probe, MOM.
Credit: ISRO
India's first Mars bound spacecraft launched last November.

India’s first Mars spacecraft successfully entered orbit around the Red Planet on Sept. 24, preparing for a mission to study weather and measure atmospheric methane.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is now the fourth space agency with a presence at Mars, a feat it achieved for the remarkably cheap price tag of $74 million. For comparison, NASA’s Mars orbiter, MAVEN, which also just entered Mars orbit, cost $671 million, although its scientific payload is significantly larger.

India’s craft is named Mangalyaan—Hindi for “Mars craft”—but is also known as MOM, for Mars Orbiter Mission. It was launched Nov. 5, 2013, from India’s launch facility, Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, on the southern barrier island of Sriharikota.

The craft’s arrival at Mars “was an impressive engineering feat, and we welcome India to the family of nations studying another facet of the Red Planet,” NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. said in a statement. “We look forward to MOM adding to the knowledge the international community is gathering with the other spacecraft at Mars.”

Though MOM was designed primarily as a vehicle to test ISRO’s ability to send a craft to orbit Mars, it carries five instruments, including a camera, infrared imaging spectrometer, and methane sensor.

ISRO has launched more than 70 spacecraft in the past 40 years, including Earth- and moon-orbiting satellites.


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