India launches its first deep space unmanned mission, sending the Mangalayaan probe toward the planet Mars. Using the proven Polar Satellite launcher, India’s entry into the field of interplanetary exploration runs up a bill equivalent to only $70,000,000. Mangalayaan – known to much of the rest of the world as MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) – is designed to survey the Martian atmosphere and examine the planet’s surface from orbit. It will arrive at Mars ten months later.
The unmanned Mangalayaan space probe arrives, intact and functioning, in Mars orbit, making India the first country on Earth to successfully reach Mars on its first attempt. (A high failure rate among past Mars missions has plagued both the Russian and American space programs.) A 23-minute engine burn slows Mangalayaan down enough to be captured by Mars’ gravity, but leaves the vehicle with twice the fuel reserves expected for its projected six-month mission.