NEW DELHI – India’s Mars orbiter mission ventured out of Earth’s sphere of influence early today in an attempt to reach the red planet’s orbit after a critical maneuver.
The Bangalore-based Indian Space Research Organization said the spacecraft fired its main engine for more than 20 minutes, giving it the correct velocity to leave the earth’s orbit.
“The Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended. The spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the sun,” the statement said.
It said that all systems onboard the spacecraft are performing normally.
India launched its first spacecraft bound for Mars on Nov. 5, a complex mission that it hopes will demonstrate and advance technologies for space travel.
The 3,000-pound orbiter must travel 485 million miles over 300 days to reach an orbit around Mars next September.
If the mission is successful, India’s will become only the fourth space program to visit the red planet after the Soviet Union, the United States and Europe.
Some have questioned the $72 million price tag for a country of 1.2 billion people still dealing with widespread poverty. But the government defended the Mars mission, and its $1 billion space program in general, by noting its importance in providing high-tech jobs for scientists and engineers, and practical applications in solving problems on Earth.