India's Mars Orbiter sends first photos: what will Mangalyaan find?

Sep 25, 2014

India becomes fourth nation to celebrate reaching Mars – and the first to manage it on first attempt

ISRO's Mars Orbiter

India's Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft has shared its first images of Mars after entering the red planet's orbit on its very first attempt.

The country's space agency became the fourth to successfully put a satellite in orbit around Mars – and the first to manage it on its first try. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a national day of celebration as it began circling Mars.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) later uploaded a picture (above) of the planet on its Mars Orbiter twitter account with the caption: "The view is nice up here."

The image, which was taken from a height of 7,300km, was printed out and presented to Prime Minister Modi, who had previously joked that the mission's budget was lower than the sci-fi film Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock.

The Mars Orbiter Mission – known as Mangalyaanor or Mom – has been lauded for its relatively low price tag – just £45m, less than the cost of a Premier League footballer. The satellite will study the Martian atmosphere from orbit and will not land on the surface of the planet, says the Daily Telegraph.

The Mars Orbiter Mission joins the US's Maven satellite in orbit around Mars. Maven, which is also studying the atmosphere, reached the red planet on Monday. Nasa's Curiosity Rover is also in residence on the Martian surface – and still active.

Nasa's PR team greeted the fellow traveller with a tweet from Curiosity's 'personal' Twitter account.

Namaste, @MarsOrbiter! Congratulations to @ISRO and India's first interplanetary mission upon achieving Mars orbit.

— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) September 24, 2014

ISRO replied in kind: "Howdy @MarsCuriosity? Keep in touch. I'll be around."

The BBC says there was an "atmosphere of excitement and tension" early on Wednesday at ISRO's mission centre in Bangalore where the scientists "many of them women and several of them young" were tracking the craft.

The first breakthrough was when the satellite fired up its liquid engine to start entering orbit. There followed an "agonising" 20 minutes when Mangalyaan passed behind Mars and was therefore out of radio contact.

When it returned and was confirmed to have begun an elliptical orbit around the planet, "the scientists all rose as one, cheered, clapped, hugged each other and exchanged high fives".

With the odds "stacked against us," said Modi, "we have navigated our craft through a route known to very few". He added that just as the nation celebrates its cricketing victories, so it should celebrate this "historic occasion".

Only the US, Russia and Europe have successfully sent missions to Mars. Japan and China have attempted to do so but failed.

Here are five key questions about the historic mission:

Why is it so significant?

India's space programme began 44 years ago, but this is the first time it has sent a mission "to study a celestial body outside Earth's sphere of influence", explains the Times of India. In reaching the red planet, India's space agency becomes the fourth in the world after those of the US, Russia and Europe to undertake a successful Mars mission. Some observers are viewing Mom "as the latest salvo in a burgeoning space race between the Asian powers of India, China, Japan, South Korea and others", says the BBC.

What exactly is the Mars Orbiter? 

The Orbiter, which is also known by the informal name of Mangalyaan (Mars-craft), is a 1,337 kilogram satellite "about the size of a small car", says Indian website Zee News. The Mom carries five scientific instruments weighing about 15 kilograms. They include a sensor that will measure the levels of methane in the Martian atmosphere, a colour camera and a thermal infrared imaging spectrometer to gauge the temperature of the planet's surface.

How long did it take to reach Mars? 

The Mom has completed a 300-day marathon to make the 200-million-kilometre journey to Mars. That included the 20-25 days it spent in the Earth's orbit "building up the necessary velocity to break free from our planet's gravitational pull", explains Zee. 

What scientific evidence is the MOM hoping to collect?

The search for methane in the Martian atmosphere is probably the most significant part of the Mom mission. Martian methane has been detected by sensors on Earth, but NASA's robotic rover Curiosity has failed to find the gas during its time on the planet. The Indian spacecraft will also examine the rate of loss of atmospheric gases to outer space, says the BBC. "This could provide insights into the planet's history; billions of years ago, the envelope of gases around Mars is thought to have been more substantial."

How much has the mission cost? 

The Mom, which is seen as a demonstration of India's low-cost space technology, is costing an estimated £45m. That's "a fraction of foreign equivalents", says Zee. But the budget price hasn't stopped critics asking if a country with "one of the highest rankings for childhood malnutrition in the world" should be involved in the space race, says the BBC. Others question the scientific purpose of the mission. A spokesman for the Delhi Science Forum, said: "This is a highly suboptimal mission with limited scientific objectives". Meanwhile, the economist-activist Jean Dreze, said the mission "seems to be part of the Indian elite's delusional quest for superpower status".

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Disqus - noscript

India can easily afford the £60M as the UK Govt gives aid to India of about £295m ($480m) a year. We however cannot afford to fund our own space programme sufficiently. But it doesn't matter because if we did have one the Govt would outsource to India anyway.

You UK help is like peanuts in front of India's GDP. Don't give your aid as we don't need your aid. Your country reminds us about our horrible colonial days.

India is third largest international investor in UK ...Indian companies own corus steel , jaguar, land rover to name a few and give thousands of jobs...why is there no criticism when India spends money investing in UK and not on its own poverty , but hell breaks loose when the so called third world country with a 2 trillion dollar economy invests a 45 million dollars in an economically viable space mission ???

All the jealous people talking about Aid, India is not getting aid from UK, its the UK who is pushing aid to NGOs even tough India describes it as peanuts and not willing to accept. Regarding Mars Mission , India has done an excellent job.!!!

Too right my friend. I've got an additional solution-if people of the UK are so concerned about India not spending on its needy, let them urge their govt to stop British companies from selling their products in India. That way, the money stays in India and we can use it to feed our poor!

in india poverty is not because the country lacks wealth. india in terms of gdp and purchasing power is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. a couple of years back indian politicians sniggered at the aid given by the uk calling it 'peanuts'. rather poverty in india is due to wealth is not being distributed properly. there is too much corruption and as one former prime minister affirmed that only 13% of a rupee intended for the common man reaches him - the rest are siphoned off by politicians/bureaucrats/middlemen. modern india is not that better off than colonial india where most of the public money was stolen by the british.

Oh common.. UK become rich by colonial countries money... India was their major source for money, labor and trade till 1940 for more than 100 years..... anyhow now after freedom within 65 yrs India has long maintained that it does not need aid from brittain and would prefer
more trade with them.....

'an indian', well that's narrowed it down a bit. 1.2 billion of you and you've invented nothing. Ever. I bet you bought your rocket from Russia.


do you know that $480mn aid to india is minuscule compared to the $10bn india invests in europe every year??

so what ? you still take it. how are those trains working for you ? invest in those. you're still using the ones we built you.

any chance you'll colonise it ? you can take all your family who will refuse to learn martian.

you've run Corus into the ground. why don't you try inventing something. anything will do. It's good that indians are proud of their country and that you're doing well, but all you do is undercut and cheapen Western goods and services, just like China.

how does that work ?

if it wasn't for colonialism you'd have no infrastructure.

shameless brits... begging with a bowl..

keep repeating this lie again and again so that you don't have to answer your conscience. british colonialism cost india trillions of dollars and 60 million deaths (due to artificially triggered famines). if we were smart enough to invent the numeric system, the concept of zero and grammar, i am sure we could have come up with basic infrastructure. what we cannot invent we can always buy. countries today didn't invent everything they use - what they dont have they buy. britain a land devoid of any resources bled india dry - which was condemned as immoral even by adam smith. britain will have to answer for this one day. and the day is not far off when people start questioning colonial history.

yeah. that makes no sense.

ok. zero is a good one. I forgot about zero. fair enough. Anything more recent ? any contribution from your 1.2Billion people to add to the sum knowledge of mankind ? you've contributed zero for the last few centuries too.

you forgot? i doubt if you even knew it.

good one. is that all you got ?

Mr. Squiz...What's your problem buddy ? It seems you have lost your job to some intelligent geek in India and now having enough time to sulk on the internet venting out your frustration. Go and upgrade your skills or you will loose what ever scope you have left for your future. Stop acting like a "bechara" (don't know the meaning for it).

oh yea? cheapen western goods? maybe you should read the above article once again. thr is nothing western about it, all indigenous.

mr sqiz please try to understand the new world were the superpower but today's UK is just like a puppet of america..actually who is ruling your nation?is it barak obama ?there is no foreign policy just obeying Americans order and sending your troops...

I agree with you entirely. And we are in no position to be giving foreign aid to anyone;what the British people are finding galling is that our Govt. are still sending aid to India and your govt are accepting it whilst having a space mission and yet India is home to a third of the world's people living on less than $1.25 a day – more than all the poor in sub-Saharan Africa.

ha ha that's it in a nutshell. Replaced by four indians who were shipped over here and will work for £10K a year and apparently still can't write code as well as me but are dirt cheap. Then they shipped their families over too so its costing the UK to educate their children and healthcare for the lot. And you can bet they won't be going back to Bangalore unless they're forced to. which of course they won't be.

$1.25 can buy one a big meal in India. There is no way any other country can manage to stay together, prosper and flourish like India is doing given the diversity in terms of culture, languages, traditions, beliefs and ideologies. You think your government is capable of taking care of a billion people? Not even the US can. Things are a bit rough now...We cannot turn into a super power overnight. It is going to be a while....but we are not resting...we are not giving up....we are constantly at work, trying to push the envelope. We don't care about naysayers....I may not write code as well as you, today. My son will write code 10 times better than yours. Our next generation will be exponentially brighter than yours. Yes, we will take away your jobs. Yes, we will beat every country in every field. But we will still not go to war with anyone...we will mind our own business and continue helping our friends.

Nope, colonising and benefitting from it has been your forte. In fact if you were to repay Indians the money you Brit robbers stole till 1947, just adjusted with inflation, your Queen would not be able to afford even her underwear.

The last I checked India refused UK aid by calling it "peanuts". It's your country that keeps pushing money in our hands. It should be clear to everyone that UK sends money hoping that India reciprocates by giving preferential status to UK and trade with it. How do you explain the uproar in UK when India refused to buy Eurofighter jets? That aid was never given keeping the poor in mind. The brits haven't changed much in the last few centuries. It's always the trade. :) Also, it speaks volumes to the quality of British engineering if your country has to pay money to other nations to get them to buy their products.

Its a good question whether a country like India needs even a space program to start with. In my opinion its the right way to go. Inspire the next generation, let the youngsters dream big . There's no other way to lift a country up and prepare for future.

nothing like a bit of self-belief as long as its grounded with a pinch of realism.

There's a difference between private and public investment.

India would not be a democracy if it wasn't for European colonisation. If India didn't want to be colonised then maybe she should've spent her time advancing technology and educating the population rather than fighting civil wars. Every single human being alive on this planet exists because his or her ancestors were victorious in battle, and these battles were more often than not very violent and brutal. If you you think the world will buy into this cry for sympathy then you might have to grow up. Look at the USA, they took a stand and decided for themselves what they wanted. They didn't spend years sitting around blaming other people. Now they are arguably the most powerful state on earth, and are in a position to influence the affairs of every nation on earth to suit their needs. Listen to yourself talking about money figures adjusted for inflation. Truly pathetic. This is life, not tiddly-winks.



wtf are you on about ?

Seriously, what would India do without all this do-gooder British aid?The Indian economy of 1 trillion pounds was badly depending on these 295m pounds that comes with no strings attached.Seriously, we are supposed to listen to our ex-colonial masters regarding our national priorities and research work for a paltry 296m pounds. Actually we haven't invented anything yet we are able to successfully launch our satellite when ESA or NASA fails to even launch in their first attempt. We Indians does not have right to salute this engineering feet. Yes, we have not invented anything...right from zero to sex to yoga..was invented by indians...perhaps a quick google search will enlighten your knowledge about India and her greatness. Just venting out your frustration won't do any good. You make me feel intelligent !

Indians invented sex did they ?

Your name should have been SillyCunt, instead of CillySunt. Get the hell out of this page.

Mr.squiz seem to having the old fatty brain of a brit. Wake up dear . The world order is changed and day by day changing . He seem to be living in the same old world order .

you just don't get it do you ? have you any idea how unbelievably stupid your comment makes you sound ?


nice pigeon English dude. Frankly I don't care whether India spends its money on a space programme, feeding it's poor, or buying everyone a nice hat. I object to Britain sending more money to India than their space programme cost, and India accepting it then bitching about the Empire and declaring it a trifling amount they neither want nor need. Return it then. Rub GB's nose in it if you want. We won't care. We'd rather have the money to spend on our health service, now creaking under the weight of immigrants and health tourism.

Good brother, this is true Brit and Mugals looted India because it was very rich country. But can and will restore its lost wealth and prosperity their only hitch, its corrupt politicians. But society going through change and when it happen in India it happens very swiftly.

England has Looted India by more than 200 trillion dollar so even if as you are saying UK giving 480mUSD is a nothing , you have increased it to 2 billion monthly and do that for another 100 years.

@ Squiz, Just curious, but why do you hate Indians so much? Is it 'cause yo' teacher tells you?

i don't hate indians.

Squiz , U do hate us. I can't find another reason for u to put ur head into all the comments above and the ones to follow.

Yeah...I agree. Mohenjo Daro / Harappa / Lothal, the Buddhist relics, Ajanta and Ellora, Khajuraho, the Taj Mahal, Mahabalipuram ... none really existed before the British came to India.
If it wasn't for colonialism the British would have remained a two-bit country that it has devolved down to now.

The British invented sex. Remember they had Profumo and the English disease....

Yes, I agree. Your NHS needs that money. And Pranab told you to keep it to yourself.
But your government wants to give it as "it brings in the orders".

which patently doesn't work.

Indians are playing a big part in UK's economy now, almost 80% corner shops are owned by Indians. They are the owners of expensive cars and houses. They are doing their hard work and paying a ton of money as Income Tax every month and yearly, which is the main source of UK's income right now. Where most of the British young generation is doing nothing and is going to the door steps of Job Centers every week to get free income from the govt. Let me bet More than 70% of young generation who are born in UK never been beyond primary education as compare to 70% Indians who crossed Graduation level.

Jaguar would have been history by now if TATA didn't buy it. Corse steel company is also owned by TATA. In-fact UK is an ASIAN market, Go to any super store or even any shop, 95% of the the products on the shelves are of Asian countries like China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and so on. Let me bet without these products on shelves the people of UK won't be able to buy MADE IN UK because they are way to expensive.
Moreover whatever Britain is now, is because of the money she looted from the countries it ruled including India, otherwise it would have been worst than Poland by now.

Why the world is making so much of controversy on this Mars mission. True India is spending a lot of money on this project, but in future, the success of this mission is going to bring a lot of money in India's wallet. India is already earning a good money from Space projects.

I am sick and tired of the comments from United Kingdom that India is poor..this that etc.. Do you know what Kohinoor Diamond is? Do you know how India became poor? You guys looted it all! And you keep on mentioning
the aids provided to India by the UK.. blah blah.. For me and my people, it is only like a bank interest return for the Kohinoor Diamond you are keeping....Why don’t you give everything back and talk? I feel proud as an Indian because now we are reaching to the skies in just 44 years.. and trust me..all these comments are not because we are spending money for space research when we have poor people, but rather many are jealous of our fast paced

We as a Nation will rather die out of
hunger than to surrender our pride and prestige in front of anyone!


Are you as stupid as you look ? Or might wanted to say that you are twice as much as Indians or Chinese are..!

you make no sense.

Usually stupids find it difficult to understand more sensible things. Its not your mistake. You are good at colonial robbery and exploitation only. Live with that.

Don't worry. I didn't expect you to understand. After all, how can I?

Not sure if they will find Methane but it will be amazing if they do. We should remember that methane is also produced through geological processes, not just bilogical.

Today,India bestows to this world maximum Engineers, doctors & Scientist. For Indians this program is few rungs up the ladder, in coming future you will see many such events to help the mankind. It denotes that no one country is superior.