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India's First Mars Probe Successfully Leaves Earth's Orbit

RIA Novosti

11:46 01/12/2013

NEW DELHI, December 1 (RIA Novosti) – India's first mission to Mars, Mangalyaan, successfully left Earth's orbit on Sunday morning, beginning its 750-million kilometer journey towards the Red Planet, the Indian Space Research Organization has said.

"The critical maneuver to place India's Mars Orbiter Spacecraft in the Mars Transfer Trajectory was successfully carried out in the early hours of today (Sunday)... The spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun," ISRO said.

India launched its first ever probe to Mars on November 5, joining the major space powers in the race to develop advanced technologies for future interplanetary flights. Mangalyaan spent about a month in Earth orbit where it made a series of altitude-raising orbital maneuvers, boosting its apogee to more than 192,000 kilometers. It is expected to arrive at a highly elliptical orbit around the Mars on September 24, 2014.

The main objective of this first Indian mission to Mars is to develop the technologies required for the design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission, ISRO said. In addition, the probe will explore Mars' surface features, morphology, mineralogy and the Martian atmosphere using indigenous scientific instruments.

The ISRO had initially planned the launch for October 28. That was postponed due to poor weather in the Pacific Ocean that hampered the positioning of ISRO's tracking ships.

Two other Asian nations, Japan and China, have previously made unsuccessful attempts to send probes to Mars.

The Soviet Union launched its Mars exploration program in the 1960s. None of Russia's 17 attempts to explore the planet were completely successful, however.

The most recent and notable failure for Russia was in 2011 when the Phobos-Grunt probe designed for a return flight to one of the moons of Mars, got stranded in low Earth orbit and fell back to Earth on January 15, 2012.

Russian scientists said in October that they would make another attempt to recover soil samples from Phobos sometime between 2020 and 2022.

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