Plenty have tried, but few have succeeded—in sending a spacecraft to Mars, that is. The latest entry is India, with its Mars Orbiter Mission, nicknamed Mangalyaan, which launched November 5.
The probe is being tested in Earth orbit now, and will head out for the Red Planet later this month.
If Mangalyaan reaches Mars orbit, it will study Mars’s atmosphere and geology. Its main goal, though, is proving the technological chops of India’s homegrown space industry.
It would also join an exclusive club. Of the more than 50 missions that have tried to reach Mars, about two thirds have failed. Only the United States, the Europe Space Agency and the Soviet Union have pulled it off.
The mission costs almost 75 million U.S. dollars. Critics call it a waste of money when so many people in India live in punishing poverty. But India’s space agency is hoping Mangalyaan will spur investment in the country and create new wealth for people all over India. So there’s a lot riding on this spacecraft.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]