India has launched its first space mission to Mars. The newly launched probe is currently in Earth orbit and will arrive on the red planet in September of next year.
At 0908 GMT this morning, India launched its first interplanetary space mission, sending a probe on a 300 day journey to our red neighbor, Mars. “The journey has only just begun,” said Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman K. Radhakrishnan. The probe was launched using an ISRO Polar Satellite launch vehicle from the Indian Space Research Organization’s Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota.
Less than an hour after liftoff, the ISRO chairman reported that the probe had reached its staging orbit around Earth. Mars Orbiter Mission director Kunhi Krishnan described the launch as the start of a “grand and glorious” mission.
Assuming all goes well, the spacecraft, named Mangalyaan (Hindi for “Mars craft”) will reach the red planet on September 24, 2014. Completing the journey would make India the fourth entity to deliver a spacecraft to Mars, after the United States, the former Soviet Union and Europe.
The $73,5 million dollar craft, which weighs in at 1,350kg, will be making observation of the planet’s surface and looking for signs of non-biological sources of methane. The craft is also meant to test out new navigation, communication and interplanetary space travel technologies.
Watch out NASA; everyone else is starting to catch up.
“To visit another planet is a fantastic thing, the biggest thing,” said Yash Pal, former chairman of India’s University Grants Commission, “If you can afford airplanes and war machines, you can certainly spend something to fulfill the dreams of young people.”