Scientists script history; India at kissing distance of Mars
India Wednesday created space history by becoming the first country in the world to enter Mars' orbit in its debut attempt. A beaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wearing a red jacket symbolic of the Red Planet, described it as "achieving the near impossible", congratulated the feat of Indian scientists and called for challenging the next frontier.
India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) traversed over 650 million km through deep space for over nine months to successfully reach the planet's orbit. The US, Europe and Russia had failed in their first attempts.
"The spacecraft (Orbiter) successfully entered the Martian orbit at 7.55 a.m. and is located at about 515 km from its surface...," a senior space official told IANS at the mission control centre here.
Radars at the earth stations of NASA at Goldstone in the US, Madrid in Spain, Canberra in Australia and India's own deep space network at Baylalu near Bangalore received the radio signals from the Orbiter, confirming its insertion into the Mars orbit.
Modi, who witnessed the event from an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) facility in Bangalore, said that the successful Mars mission "must become a base for challenging the next frontier".
The success "will go down as landmark in history", said a visibly delighted Modi.
India's Mars mission is "a shining symbol of what we are capable of as a nation" and we have gone beyond boundaries of human enterprise and imagination, he added.
The 475 kg (dry mass) Orbiter will take 77 hours or 3.2 earth days to rotate around the red planet over the next six months and will study its surface and mineral composition and scan its atmosphere for methane gas in search of life-sustaining elements.
The prime minister said that the MOM was built "indigenously, in a pan-Indian effort".
"With today's spectacular success, ISRO joins an elite group of only three other agencies worldwide to have successfully reached the Red Planet," he added amidst applause.
Modi, who spoke in English and Hindi, said that 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...Travelling an incredible distance, of over 650 million or 65 crore km, we have gone beyond boundaries of human enterprise and imagination."
Indians, including those living abroad, were elated and many took to Facebook and Twitter saying "mission accomplished".
#Mangalyaan #MissionMars #proudindian were some of the top trending topics on Twitter and Facebook since Wednesday morning.
The success of the Mars mission has made India join the elite club of the US, Europe and Russia, which reached the second smallest planet of our solar system after initial failures.
The state-run ISRO became the fourth international space agency after National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US, Russian Federal Space Agency (RFSA) and European Space Agency to have undertaken successful missions to Mars.
India also became the first Asian country to have entered the Mars sphere of influence (gravity) Tuesday, as a similar mission by China failed in 2011.
The success of the mission to Mars will "inspire our scientists to make even greater strides", said President Pranab Mukherjee who described it as a "historic achievement".
The final orbiting exercise began at 4.17 a.m. Wednesday.
After rotating the Orbiter towards Mars at 6.57 a.m., the main engine was ignited at 7.17 a.m. for enabling the spacecraft enter its orbit from the sun orbit, where it cruised for over nine months and 24 days during its voyage to Mars from the Earth.
During the crucial operation, when a solar eclipse occurred on Mars from 7.12 a.m., the main engine started its burn at 7.30 a.m. and lasted for 24 minutes till 7.54 a.m. to swing the spacecraft into the Martian orbit. The speed of the spacecraft was also reduced.
The Rs.450-crore ($70 million) ambitious mission was launched Nov 5, 2013, on board a polar rocket from spaceport Sriharikota off Bay of Bengal, about 80 km northeast of Chennai.
As the fourth planet away from sun, Mars is the second smallest celestial body in the solar system. Named after the Roman god of war, it is also known as the Red Planet due to the presence of iron oxide in abundance on its surface, giving it a reddish appearance.
Mars is part of people's consciousness due to the long held belief that there could be life on the planet. When Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) were said to have been spotted, they were believed to be carrying Martian beings. - IANS