|PSLV-C25 launch vehicle carrying the Mars Orbiter probe as its payload lifting off from the launch pad in Sriharikota|
India launched its first mission to Mars Tuesday morning from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh, beginning a 300-day journey to study the Martian atmosphere. (Read: 'It's lift off': 10-point cheatsheet on Mission to Mars) | (First pics)
Mangalyaan, which means "Mars craft" in Hindi, is the size of a small car and is scheduled to begin orbiting Mars by September, searching for methane and signs of minerals. (Read)
The gold-coloured satellite was carried by a rocket much smaller than American or Russian equivalents. The 350-tonne launch vehicle will orbit Earth for nearly a month, building up the necessary velocity to break free from the planet's gravitational pull.
It will then begin the second stage of its nine-month journey which will test India's scientists to the full, five years after they sent a probe called Chandrayaan to the moon.
The total cost of the project is one-sixth of the cost of a Mars probe set to be launched by NASA in 13 days.
Only the United States, Europe, and Russia have sent probes that have orbited or landed on Mars. Probes to Mars have a high failure rate. A similar mission by China failed to leave Earth's orbit in 2011.
"This is a technology demonstration project, a mission that will announce to the world India has the capability to reach as far away as Mars, "said K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization.
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