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Reuters/Babu
The whole mission cost less than a Hollywood film.
400 MILLION-MILE RACE

These numbers capture India’s historic and incredibly frugal Mars mission

By Saptarishi Dutta

India’s space agency today gave the country the distinction of becoming the first to reach Mars in its first attempt, prompting joyous celebrations on social media and a congratulatory speech by prime minister Narendra Modi, in which he riffed on the abbreviation MOM, for Mars Orbiter Mission.

“When I heard about the abbreviation for this mission, I was certain about its success, because MOM doesn’t disappoint,” he said.

The Indian Space Research Organization, known for its frugal high technology abilities, is among the institutions Indians cherish. It has yet again given the country a reason to rejoice. The European Space Agency, which represents 20 countries, had also entered the Mars orbit successfully on its first attempt in 2003. The United States and the Soviet Union are the only nations to have landed on Mars but the Soviet mission fell silent shortly after landing in 1973. US has landed multiple missions on Mars.

The development marks a victory for India over China in what some have dubbed the Asian space race.

India’s orbiter carries cameras and a methane gas sensor. Evidence of methane gas on Mars will indicate a greater likelihood of finding life forms on the red planet.

The development marks a victory for India over China in what some have dubbed the Asian space race.

AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
TV grabs show prime minister Narendra Modi greeting Indian Space Research Organisation scientists in Bangalore.

Praising the ISRO scientists, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi said they have “made a habit of achieving the impossible.”

Here are the numbers that stand out from this historic mission:

$74 million: That’s the amount India spent on its Mars program. Modi described it best when he said the Sandra Bullock-starrer Gravity cost more to make than India’s Mars mission. NASA’s Maven mission, admittedly more complex, cost $671 million in comparison. European Space Agency’s 2003 Mars Express Orbiter mission cost $386 million. Japan’s failed mars mission cost $189 million.

Rs 7 per kilometre: That is how much the journey to mars cost India. That is cheaper than an auto ride in Delhi, which will cost you, if you are lucky, Rs8 per km.

324 days: The time India took to complete its Mars mission. The program was launched on November 5, 2013 and after 10 months, Mangalyaan was finally put in the martian orbit on Sept. 24. It took NASA 308 days to put its craft in the red planet’s orbit.

AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
Indian Space Research Organisation scientists and officials cheer as they celebrate the success of Mars Orbiter Mission.

400 million miles: That’s the distance travelled by Mangalyaan before it was put in the martian orbit.

51 Mars missions: That’s the total number of Mars missions undertaken so far. Apart from India, only US, Russia and Europe have succeeded in placing their satellites around the martian orbit.

$1.2 billion: That is what India spends on its space program every year.

18,092Number of tweets that were sent out in the past one hour with #Mangalyaan—currently the top India trend on Twitter. Over the last seven days, a total of 57,007 tweets were posted using this hashtag.

But the winning tweets were the little chit chat in space between the ISRO Mars Orbiter and Nasa’s Curiosity rover.

For those interested in the technical details of the mission, this is a great resource.