Mangalyaan orbiter blasts off: India hails 'text-book' launch for mission to Mars

Craft due to arrive in the orbit of the Red planet on 21 September next year

Delhi

India's attempt to become just the fourth nation to successfully send a mission to Mars has today made a good start after the Mangalyaan orbiter blasted off.

The unmanned craft was launched at 2.38pm local time from a site on an island off the eastern coast of India, carried aboard a powerful rocket. Observers said the initial blast-off had been "text-book".

Television footage showed flames and smoke at the base of the launch rocket as it lifted off. Scientists at base control in Bangalore cheered as they watched the launch rocket pass first over Thailand and then Indonesia as they awaited the separation of the orbiter and the rocket.

After around 45 minutes, the scientists could be seen cheering again as the orbiter successfully separated from the rocket.

"It has been a new and complex mission. We attempted to put the satellite from the orbit of Earth to the orbit of Mars," said K Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space and Research Organisation.

He said he had received a phone call from India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, congratulating the team. It had been Mr Singh who announced India's plan to send a mission to Mars when he addressed the nation last year from the ramparts of Delhi's Red Fort.

After today's initial blast-off, the plan is for the £62m orbiter to circle the earth, gradually increasing in velocity until booster rockets are fired, setting the craft on route for a 300-day journey to Mars. It is due to arrive in the orbit of the Red planet on September 21 next year, where it will then carry out a series of scientific investigations over four months.

India is aiming to follow the Soviet Union, United States and the European Space Agency in having a successful visit to Mars.

People gather round a television set to see the launch (AP) People gather round a television set to see the launch (AP)  

Supporters of the space mission say research over decades has allowed India to develop satellite, communications and remote sensing technologies that help to solve everyday problems, from forecasting where fish can be caught to predicting cataclysmic storms and floods.

The craft is carrying equipment that will enable it to perform five main scientific experiments during its four-month orbit of the planet.

Of particular interest will be tests to try and check for the presence of methane, a sign that Mars may once have borne life. Nasa recently said that its Curiosity rover, which landed on the surface of Mars in August 2012, has not detected methane.

Indian scientists point out that Nasa had previously said there was no evidence of water on the moon. Yet the 2008 Indian mission, Chandrayaan-1, confirmed the presence of water molecules within the lunar soil.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chef

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Chef is required to join one of the largest ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor