NASA's Mars machines gets company from India

An Indian spacecraft today was the first from the country to slide into orbit around Mars.

An Indian spacecraft today was the first from the country to slide into orbit around Mars. The Indian Space Research Organization's Mars Orbiter Mission, or MOM, reached Mars, fired its engines and maneuvered itself into orbit around the distant planet after a 10-month journey.

That means NASA has some company. NASA and the European Space Agency have three orbiters and two robotic rovers working on or around Mars. Now India has joined the scientific team.

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke at the Indian Space Research Organization's command center in Bangalore this morning, noting that India is the only country to have succeeded in its first attempt to send a spacecraft to Mars, and to have put together the spacecraft in record time on what he called a shoestring budget. "India has successfully reached Mars," Modi said. "History has been created today. We have achieved the near impossible. We have navigated a spacecraft through a route known to very few. . . ."

He added, "The odds were against us. We have prevailed."

The Indian spacecraft reached Mars just days after NASA's MAVEN spacecraft entered orbit around Mars. MAVEN will explore Mars' upper atmosphere, giving scientists clues as to why Mars didn't hold onto its water and atmosphere, and become a lush planet like Earth. NASA was quick to offer its congratulations to the Indian Space Research Organization.

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