At 7:41 am on Wednesday, Sept. 24, the mission control of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Bangalore received confirmation of the successful insertion of its orbiter into Mars orbit 12 minutes earlier, indicating that ISRO has finally made it to the elite group of space agencies that have successfully landed and orbited a spacecraft on Mars. Before it, only the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), European Space Agency (ESA) and Soviet space program have made it to the Red Planet.
While the country's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft, also commonly known as the Mangalyaan, isn't the first orbiter to be successfully inserted in the orbit of the Red Planet, India has a number of reasons to celebrate.
Mangalyaan may not be the first to reach Mars but it certainly made history as the first spacecraft that entered the Martian orbit in its maiden attempt. The achievement is made more significant by the fact that Mangalyaan is a low budget mission. NASA's Maven craft, which incidentally arrived on Mars orbit just a few days ahead of Mangalyaan, costs $671 million, while Mangalyaan costs only $74 million, or about 11 percent of NASA's budget for the Maven probe.
India's landmark success did not go unnoticed even by China. India and China are regional giants in terms of economy and population, but the relationship between the two powerful nations is marked by border disputes and competition. The rivalry appears to exist even in ambitious space missions and technologies but Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying hailed Mangalyaan's triumph a "pride of Asia."
"This is pride of India and the pride of Asia, and landmark progress in humankind's exploration of outer space so we congratulate India on that," Hua said.
Although Pakistan did not congratulate India for its success, Namira Salim, the first Pakistani to go into space via the Virgin Galactic, which is set to provide spaceflight for tourists starting 2015, commended India for the success of the Mangalyaan launch.
"The success of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), Mangalyaan, is a giant leap for South Asia," Salim said. "I commend the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and all its scientists and researchers for not only achieving this astronomical feat, but also for achieving it in the most cost-effective manner."
India and Pakistan are Asian neighbors but in a bitter relationship over a disputed territory.