The $74-million mission will attempt to enter orbit around Mars
early on Wednesday. If successful, it will be the first time a
mission has entered Mars' orbit on its first attempt, enhancing
India's position in the global space race.
"Main liquid engine test firing successful ... we had a perfect burn
for four seconds as programmed," the state-run Indian Space Research
Organisation (ISRO) said on its social media sites.
The engine was tested after being idle for 300 days and will be used
with eight small thrusters during orbit entry. Reducing the craft's
speed from its current rate of 22 km (13.7 miles) per second would
be a key challenge, experts say.
The spacecraft, called Mangalyaan, was launched in November last
The project has been embraced by new Prime Minister Narendra Modi
who aims to establish India as a bigger player in the more than $300
billion space technology market, even as neighboring China gives
stiff competition with its bigger launchers.
Modi will sit next to scientists at ISRO's command center in the
city of Bangalore on Wednesday during the last phase of the mission,
the space agency's scientific secretary V. Koteswara Rao told
Rao said a group of about 100 scientists celebrated when the
communication signals from craft, that take 12 minutes to reach
Earth, showed the engine test was successful.
"It was a joyous moment," Rao said.
Success would make India the fourth space power after the United
States, Europe and Russia to orbit or land on the red planet.
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"This was a critical test we had to overcome. The mission appears to
be near successful now," said Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, an
expert on space security at the Observer Research Foundation, a New
The Mangalyaan aims to study Mars' surface and mineral composition,
and scan its atmosphere for methane, a chemical strongly tied to
life on Earth. It cost roughly a tenth of NASA's Mars mission Maven
that successfully entered Mars orbit on Sunday.
Indians have started praying for the mission's success. On Sunday,
Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an affiliate group of Modi's Bharatiya Janata
Party, offered ritual prayers in the capital, New Delhi.
(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Robert
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