New Delhi: When Mangalyaan, India's first mission to Mars, entered the Earth's orbit around 44 minutes after blastoff on Tuesday, it completed its first stage and a critical part of its journey towards the Red planet (First pictures)
About 2100 seconds after a clean launch at 2.38 pm from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh, orbitor separated from its launch rocket. (LIVE updates)
The launch rocket "has placed the Mars Orbiter spacecraft very precisely into an elliptical orbit around Earth," the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO K. Radhakrishnan said from the control room. (Read: India blasts off in race to Mars with low-cost mission)
The Mangalyaan, which means "Mars craft" in Hindi and is the size of a small car, will now orbit Earth for nearly a month, building up the necessary velocity to break free from our planet's gravitational pull. That will be the next big stage for the orbiter, which will then begin a nine-month journey which will test scientists from ISRO to the full.
It is scheduled to reach the orbit of Mars in September 2014. (Read)
Almost half of the 40 attempts made globally to reach Mars have failed, including one by China in 2011.
Mangalyaan has been described as the next logical step for India after ISRO successfully sent a probe called Chandrayaan to the moon in 2008.
The total cost of the Mars project is 450 crores, one sixth of the cost of a Mars probe set to be launched by NASA in 13 days.