India just cemented its place as a space power, and put NASA’s billions to shame, with the news that its $74 million space probe just entered Mars orbit. The orbiter, dubbed Mangalyaan, dropped into orbit following a burn at 10:30 EST, making India the first country to successfully reach Mars orbit on the first try. Actually, NASA’s history of Mars missions makes for pretty sobering reading: the first three missions failed to even reach Earth orbit, and it took until Mariner 9 and for the USA to get a probe into successful orbit without anything accidentally blowing up.
India became the first Asian nation to reach the Red Planet when its indigenously made unmanned spacecraft entered the orbit of Mars on Wednesday — and the first nation in the world to successfully reach Mars on its first attempt. The spacecraft called “Mangalyaan,” or “Mar’s craft” in Hindi, which was launched last November, slowed down just enough to reach orbit early Wednesday, securing India a place in the elite global space club of Martian explorers. Images of beaming scientists clapping and hugging each other at the command center in the southern city of Bangalore were shown live in a nationally televised broadcast after a breathless, nail-biting countdown during the spacecraft’s final leg. Over an hour after reaching the orbit, the space agency received the first photographic data of the red planet’s terrain which were transmitted via an antenna located in Canberra, Australia.