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.
Calling it the “national pride event,” the Indian Space Research Organization also showed it live on Facebook and Twitter.
The Headline Today news TV channel called it “India’s date with the Red Planet,” and NDTV 24×7 called it “India’s big leap,” reflecting the surge of national pride. NASA tweeted congratulations to India for its “Mars arrival.”
Wearing a symbolic red vest, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, witnessed the final insertion of the Mission Orbiter Mars, or MOM as it is fondly called here.
“Mars has found MOM today,” Modi said in his short address. “When this mission’s short name became MOM, I was convinced that Mom never disappoints. History has been created today. India is the only country to have succeeded to reach the Red Planet on its first attempt.”