India's mission to Mars successfully completes first stage

India's mission to Mars successfully completes first stage

PSLV-C25 launch vehicle carrying the Mars Orbiter probe as its payload lifting off from the launch pad in Sriharikota

Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh: India's first mission to Mars successfully completed its first stage on Tuesday, entering orbit around Earth 44 minutes after blast-off from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh. (First pics)

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 (ISRO) K Radhakrishnan said from the control room. (Who said what)(Live blog)

Mangalyaan, which means "Mars craft" in Hindi, is the size of a small car and is meant to make a 300-day journey to study the Martian atmosphere. ('It's lift off': 10-point cheatsheet on Mission to Mars)

It is scheduled to begin orbiting Mars by September, searching for methane and signs of minerals. (Read)

The 350-tonne launch vehicle carrying an unmanned probe was monitored by dozens of scientists in the control room who face their most daunting task since India began its space programme in 1963.

The country has never before attempted inter-planetary travel.

The launch vehicle will stay in the Earth's orbit for nearly a month, building up the necessary velocity to break free from our planet's gravitational pull.

Only then will it begin the second stage of its nine-month journey which will test India's scientists to the full, five years after they sent a probe called Chandrayaan to the moon.

The total cost of the project is Rs 450 crore, one-sixth of the cost of a Mars probe set to be launched by NASA in 13 days.

Only the United States, Europe, and Russia have sent probes that have orbited or landed on Mars. Probes to Mars have a high failure rate.

The Mission to Mars was announced only 15 months ago by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, shortly after China's attempt flopped when it failed to leave Earth's atmosphere.
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