NEW DELHI, September 24 (RIA Novosti) – India has made history on Wednesday as the first nation to successfully reach Mars on its maiden attempt.
"India has successfully reached Mars ... History has been created today," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said from mission control after the spacecraft confirmed entry into orbit 8:02 a.m. (02:32 GMT).
"We have dared to reach out into the unknown and have achieved the near impossible," Modi said.
India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan, reached Mars after a 10-month journey. The achievement marks the first time a single nation has reached the Red Planet on its first try, although the European Space Agency, representing a number of countries, also found success on its maiden attempt.
The spacecraft is carrying a camera, imaging spectrometer and methane sensor, among other scientific instruments brought along to aid in the probe's mission of searching for evidence of life on Mars. Mangalyaan will use them to scan the planet's atmosphere in search of methane, a possible indicator of former life on the Red Planet. Its results will be sent back to Earth.
"It's a low-cost technology demonstration," Pallava Bagla, who has written a book on India's space program, told AFP.
"The rivalry between regional giants China and India exists in space too and this gives India the opportunity to inch ahead of China [and capture more of the market]," Bagla added.
The mission is particularly significant since it cost only $74 million, a fraction of NASA's $671 million MAVEN spacecraft that began orbiting the planet on September 21.
Scientists are confident in the cost-efficient spacecraft which first began its mission on November 5 and is expected to orbit Mars for six months some 310 miles from its surface.
Success of Mangalyaan, Hindi for "Mars," puts it ahead of both China and Japan as their previous attempts to reach the Red Planet have failed.