India prepares to launch Mangalyaan, its Mars-bound spacecraft


Part of the Mars panorama released by NASA that combines 817 images taken by the panoramic camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.



India is preparing to launch a spacecraft on a journey to Mars on Tuesday. If the satellite reaches its destination 10 months from now, it will make India the first Asian nation to explore the Red Planet.

Currently, NASA has two rovers and two orbiters exploring Mars and a European satellite is orbiting the planet.

India’s satellite is called “Mangalyaan,” or “Mars craft” in Hindi. It’s due to blast off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center near Chennai at 2:38 p.m. local time.

The probe’s mission is to study the loss of water from Mars, document methane gas sources and collect data about Mars moons Phobos and Deimos.

"This is a major turning point in our space program — towards exploration," Koppillil Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, the country's civilian space agency, said. It will bring "technological advantage for the country," he added.

China attempted to send its Yinghuo-1 satellite to Mars in 2011, but the spacecraft failed to leave Earth’s orbit. China is not planning another trip to Mars until at least 2016.

Japan sent a satellite to Mars in 2003, but the spacecraft couldn’t manage to orbit the planet.

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