India’s spacecraft beams back first Mars photos

Gulab Chand in PhysOrg:

AnindianspacIndia became the first Asian country to reach Mars on Wednesday when the unmanned Mangalyaan spacecraft entered the planet's orbit after a 10-month journey, all on a shoestring budget. The mission, which is designed to search for evidence of life on the planet, is a huge source of national pride for India as it competes with Asian rivals for success in space. India beat rival neighbour China, whose first attempt flopped in 2011 despite the Asian superpower pouring billions of dollars into its programme.

At just $74 million, India's mission cost less than the estimated $100 million budget of the sci-fi blockbuster “Gravity”. It also represents just a fraction of the cost of NASA's $671 million MAVEN spacecraft, which successfully began orbiting the fourth planet from the sun on Sunday. India now joins an elite club of the United States, Russia and Europe who can boast of reaching Mars. More than half of all missions to the planet have ended in failure. No single nation had previously succeeded on its first go, although the European Space Agency, which represents a consortium of countries, pulled off the feat at its first attempt. Scientists presented the Mars photos on Thursday to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was on hand in the command centre to witness the achievement. “The success of our space programme is a shining symbol of what we are capable of as a nation,” a jubilant Modi said on Wednesday.

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