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India's mission to Mars blasts off (VIDEO)


Indian bystanders watch the live telecast of the launch of India's Mars Orbiter Mission inside a showroom in New Delhi on November 5, 2013. India's first mission to Mars blasted off as the country aims to become the only Asian nation to reach the Red Planet with a programme showcasing its low-cost space technology.



India's unmanned spacecraft, called Mangalyaan, or "Mars craft" in Hindi, blasted off on Tuesday to begin its 10-month journey to Mars.

At exactly 2.38 p.m. local time, the rocket took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Andhra Pradesh without a hitch, and by all accounts the mission is going smoothly.

Once in orbit around the Red Planet, the satellite's mission is to investigate the loss of water on Mars, explore sources of methane gas and gather information on two of Mars' moons, Phobos and Deimos.

"The biggest challenge will be precisely navigating the space craft to Mars," K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space and Research Organization, told the Associated Press

If Mangalyaan makes it as scheduled in September 2014, India will become the first Asian country to successfully send a mission to Mars, joining an elite club of nations.

According to India Today, all 21 successful Mars missions have been conducted by just three space powers — the United States' NASA, the European Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency. (Thirty missions to Mars have failed to reach their destination.)

Both China in 2011 and Japan in 2003 tried and failed to send a mission to Mars. China's space agency has said it will not attempt another go at Mars until at least 2016.

Watch the launch (via Guardian):