INDIANS cheered on September 24th after their scientists smoothly steered a spacecraft, the Mangalyaan, into orbit just above Mars. Since the launch last November, the Mars Orbiter Mission appears to have gone without a hitch. Standing by the craft’s handlers in Bangalore, Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, puffed with pride.
The Mangalyaancarries few sensors and will discover little of scientific merit. But to point that out is both petty and beside the point. The main purpose was to get a craft there quickly and cheaply. The mission reportedly cost just $74m, which is much less than setting up a cricket team in the Indian Premier League.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) uploaded one of the photos to its Facebook page, showing an orange crater-marked surface with dark holes, taken from a height of 7,300 km.
India becomes the first Asian nation to reach the red planet.