India joins Mars explorers club
Published 10:01 am Wednesday, September 24, 2014
NEW DELHI — India triumphed in its first interplanetary mission, placing a satellite into orbit around Mars on Wednesday and catapulting the country into an elite club of deep-space explorers.
In scenes broadcast live on Indian TV, scientists broke into wild cheers as the orbiter’s engines completed 24 minutes of burn time to maneuver the spacecraft into its designated place around the red planet.
“We have gone beyond the boundaries of human enterprise and innovation,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a live broadcast from the Indian Space and Research Organisation’s command center in the southern tech hub of Bangalore.
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“We have navigated our craft through a route known to very few,” Modi said, congratulating the scientists and “all my fellow Indians on this historic occasion.”
Scientists described the final stages of the Mars Orbiter Mission, affectionately nicknamed MOM, as flawless. The success marks a milestone for the space program in demonstrating that it can conduct complex missions and act as a global launch pad for commercial, navigational and research satellites.
Reaching the fourth planet from the sun is a major feat for the developing country of 1.2 billion people, most of whom are poor. At the same time, India has a robust scientific and technical educational system that has produced millions of software programmers, engineers and doctors.
India describes MOM as the first successful Mars mission on a maiden attempt by any country, although the European Space Agency, a consortium of several nations, also did it on its first Mars mission in 2003.
Rival China is also expanding its space exploration program with a space lab that is in orbit before a future permanent space station is established. It also landed a rover on the moon late last year, but has not sent a satellite to Mars.