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INDIA - SPACE

Indian rocket to Mars successfully enters Earth's orbit

Photo: AFP
2 min

India's first mission to Mars completed its first stage on Tuesday, successfully entering an elliptical orbit around the Earth 44 minutes after take-off, the Indian Space Research Organisation announced.

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India's first mission to Mars completed its first stage on Tuesday, successfully entering orbit around Earth 44 minutes after lift-off, the national space agency announced.

The launch rocket "has placed the Mars Orbiter spacecraft very precisely into an elliptical orbit around Earth", the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) K. Radhakrishnan announced.

The 350-tonne launch vehicle carrying an unmanned probe was monitored by dozens of scientists in the control room who are facing their most daunting task since India began its space programme in 1963.

The country has never before attempted interplanetary travel and more than half of all missions to Mars have ended in failure, including China's in 2011 and Japan's in 2003.

The Mars Orbiter Mission, known as Mangalyaan in India, was announced only 15 months ago by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, shortly after China's attempt flopped when it failed to leave Earth's atmosphere.

The gold-coloured probe, the size of a small car, will aim to detect methane in the Martian atmosphere. It has been hurriedly assembled and is being carried by a rocket much smaller than its US or Russian equivalents.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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