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India's Mars spacecraft begins journey to the Red Planet

November 05, 2013|By Deborah Netburn

And she's off!

India's space agency successfully launched its 3,000-pound Mars Orbiter Mission probe on Tuesday, and you can watch video of it leaving Earth in a cloud of smoke in the box above.

The spacecraft lifted off early Tuesday morning. It will spend the next several weeks in orbit around Earth and on Dec. 1 head out on the arduous 300-day journey to the Red Planet.

If the mission is successful, the probe will arrive in Mars orbit about Sept. 24. It will make India the first country in Asia to have a spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet, joining missions launched by the U.S., Russia and the European Union.

Japan and China have also launched Mars missions, but they were ultimately unsuccessful.

The Mars Orbiter Mission has two goals, according to the Indian Space Research Organization. One is to test and showcase India's technological abilities in designing, planning and managing an interplanetary mission. The other is to gather information about Mars' surface features and atmosphere.

To that end, the spacecraft was loaded with a color camera, a thermal infrared imaging spectrometer and a methane sensor, among other instruments. 

The spacecraft is known informally as Mangalyaan, Hindi for "Mars-craft." It was launched aboard India's 44-foot Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in the southeastern city of Sriharikota.  

The cost of the mission is about $73 million. The probe has a nearly 240-million-mile trip ahead of it, but it is off to a good start.


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