Last night’s 24-minute engine burn was a success and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft has maneuvered itself into orbit above Mars.
The probe, which is about the size of a car, is known as MOM or Mangalyann (means ‘Mars-Craft’ in Hindi.)
“History has been created today,” India Prime Minister Narendra Modi proudly declared on confirmation MOM had entered Mars orbit. “We have dared to reach out into the unknown, and have achieved the near-impossible.”
Yesterday’s success makes India the first country to succeed on its first attempt to get a spacecraft in Mars orbit according to the Prime Minister.
While the success gives a boost to India’s status on the global stage, the country faces many challenges closer to home. Poverty and population growth are two major challenges facing the 1.25 billion people strong nation. Modi pointed to India’s space program success yesterday as what is possible by the Indian people.
“We Indians are a proud people. Despite our many limitations, we aspire for the best. The success of our space program is a shining symbol of what we are capable of as a nation,” Modi told the Mars Orbiter Mission team.
India’s success comes on an extremely tight budget, compared to other space missions. The Mars Orbiter Mission’s price tag sits at $74 million, well below NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft which cost $671 million. Granted, NASA’s spacecraft is many times more complex than India’s MOM mission. Still, it shows an incredibly difficult feat (getting to Mars) can be done on the cheap.
NASA’s MAVEN team congratulated their Indian counterparts in a tweet.
— NASA’s MAVEN Mission (@MAVEN2Mars) September 24, 2014
What’s next for MOM? Now that it is in Mars orbit, it will adjust its orbit in order to get in a better position for scientific observations. The teams from MOM and MAVEN plan to work together over the coming months as they both study the Red Planet’s atmosphere. In particular, MOM will study Mars’ atmospheric methane.
All the orbiters above Mars will have a bit more company on October 19. Comet Siding Spring is expected to fly by Mars and come within 82,000 miles. The orbiters don’t have to worry, though. The orbiters are expected to be safe and can enjoy the cool show.
Image credit: Jagadeesh Nv/European Pressphoto Agency