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India's unmanned spacecraft leaves Earth orbit on way to Mars

Nov. 30, 2013 at 11:16 PM

CHENNAI, India, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- India's unmanned Mars orbiter spacecraft left Earth orbit early Sunday and is headed to the Red Planet, mission officials said.

Indian Space Research Organization in Bangalore said that in a "crucial event" it called "the mother of all slingshots," the spacecraft's engine was fired for about 22 minutes, starting at 12:49 a.m. local time, sending it out of the Earth's gravitational pull and on a trajectory to Mars, the Press Trust of India reported.

"Following the completion of this maneuver, the Earth-orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended, ISRO officials said in a statement. "The spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the sun."

ISRO said four mid-course corrections are scheduled, if needed, to adjust the spacecraft before it reaches Mars in September.

The spacecraft was launched Nov. 5 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.

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