India Mars mission lifts off

India's space program launched the Mangalyaan orbiter en route to Mars.
Posted By Gabrielle Levy  |  Updated Nov. 5, 2013 at 3:01 PM
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(UPI) -- India gave its cosmic ambitions a major boost Tuesday morning when it launched a rocket carrying a Mars orbiter, aiming to become just the fourth space program to successfully reach the Red Planet.

The Indian Space Research Organization launched its Mangalyaan spacecraft, sending it on a 10-month journey, which, if successful, will end in Mars' orbit to gather information about its atmosphere, minerals and surface.

The orbiter carries five instruments: a Lyman Alpha Photometer to measure water loss, Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer to map the surface, Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer to study the atmosphere, Mars Color Camera to photograph the planet's surface and moons and a Methane Sensor for Mars to search for methane.

But just because the launch, from a space center near Chennai on India's southeastern coast, went off successfully doesn't mean the ISRO probe will reach Mars safely.

For every successful Mars mission, two have failed. Japan's Nozomi orbiter failed in 1998 and a Chinese-Russian mission failed in 2012. In 2003, the UK's Beagle 2 probe separated from the EU's Mars Express orbiter, but was never heard from. All in all, 30 of the attempted 51 attempts to reach the planet failed.

To date, only the United States, the former Soviet Union and the European Space Agency have successfully reached Mars. The only two other countries to make the attempt, Japan and China, have failed.

If successful, India will be the the first Asian nation, and just the third nation to reach Mars on its own.

ISRO launched its first extra-planetary craft in 2008, putting an unmanned probe into orbit around the Moon, aiding in the discovery of water there. The agency plans its first manned spaceflight in 2016.

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