India’s inaugural mission to Mars, the Mangalyaan, has entered the planet’s orbit after a 300-day, 670 million kilometre journey.
BBC News reports that the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) craft touched down on the red planet’s surface this morning. The operation will allow India to study the atmosphere, search for methane gas and look for signs of life.
“India will become the first Asian country to have achieved this and if it happens in the maiden attempt itself, India could become the first country in the world to have reached distant Mars on its own steam in the first attempt,” said K Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), as the craft made its approach.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the scientists’ work, calling the mission an “‘historic achievement”.
“Through your achievements, you have honoured our fore-fathers, and inspired our future generations,” Modi said, according to NDTV. “Through your brilliance, and hard work, you have made it a habit, of achieving the impossible.”
The mission firmly establishes India as a major player in space exploration. ISRO are just the fourth space agency to send a satellite to Mars. Never before had a country entered the planet’s orbit at the first attempt.
The news comes just two days after NASA’s latest spacecraft, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN), entered the red planet’s orbit in the continuing search for previous signs of life.
Mars image via Shutterstock