India’s Spacecraft Crosses Moon’s Orbit and Makes its Way to Mars

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By Hannah Osborne | December 3, 2013 10:39 PM EST

Indian spacecraft leaves Moon's orbit (Reuters)

India's spacecraft has crossed the Moon's orbit and is now on its way to Mars, officials have confirmed.

The Mangalyaan has become the first Indian-made object to travel into deep space, the Indian Space Research Organisation said.

ISRO said the spacecraft has travelled 536,000km and crossed the distance to the Moon's orbit around Earth during the morning of 2 December.

"The Mars Orbiter spacecraft has crossed the Moon orbit [and] is now travelling beyond the Moon. This is the first time an Indian-made object is being sent into deep space," ISRO officials told the NDTV news channel.

Its main engine was fired for around 20 minutes at the weekend to give it the velocity to leave Earth's Orbit.

The craft will now travel one million kilometres per day until it reaches the Red Planet, which it is expected to reach in September next year.

The craft is being constantly monitored by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Reuters)

When it arrives, the £45m probe will carry out experiments, including a search for methane gas, although it will not land on the actual surface of Mars.

The mission has also been used to demonstrate India's ability to reach Mars. Only three other countries have ever sent craft to the Red Planet, and none have been from Asia.

ISRO director Deviprasad Karnik told IANS: "When the spacecraft is closest to Mars in mid-September, it will be captured into the Martian orbit through a crucial manoeuvre."

The craft launched on 5 November after three years of planning. Hundreds of people watched the launch from the east-cost island of Sriharikota, with thousands if not millions more watching live online or through TV broadcasts.

Officials said it was a "textbook launch", with mission director P Kunhikrishnan adding: "Capturing and igniting the young minds of India and across the globe will be the major return from this mission."

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