India made history on September 24th, 2014 by becoming the first country in the world to successfully place a satellite into orbit around Mars on its maiden attempt.
The success of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) brings India into an elite club of Martian explorers that includes the United States, the European Space Agency and the former Soviet Union.
Both the United States and Russia failed in their maiden attempts. The first Chinese mission to Mars failed in 2011. In 1998, a Japanese mission to Mars ran out of fuel and was lost.
The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) spacecraft arrived in Martian orbit after a 300-day long marathon covering over 420 million miles (670 million kilometers).
Lauded for its low price tag of $74 million, MOM was developed with homegrown technology. In comparison, NASA’s Maven, which reached its position around the red planet just two days before MOM, cost nearly nine times more at $671 million. Even the 2013 3D Sci-Fi thriller ‘Gravity’ had a larger budget than MOM at close to $100 million.
MOM will continue to circle the planet for several more months. Its five solar-powered instruments will gather scientific data on Martian weather systems as well as what happened to the water that is believed to have once existed on Mars.
India’s Mars spacecraft has beamed back the first images of the red planet and were made public by ISRO.