‘First Pakistani in space’ congratulates India on Mars mission

In this handout photo released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on Sept. 25, 2014, the surface of Mars is seen from a height of 7300m in the first image taken by the ISRO Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft. (AFP)

A Pakistani explorer expected to become her country's first person in space congratulated India on Thursday on reaching Mars on its maiden attempt.

India won the Asian space race to the Red Planet on Wednesday when its unmanned Mangalyaan successfully entered the Red Planet's orbit after a 10-month journey on a budget of just $74 million.

Despite having a space agency since 1961, Pakistan has not yet launched a satellite into orbit.

But Namira Salim, the first Pakistani explorer to reach both poles said India's achievement had made the region proud.

"The success of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), Mangalyaan, is a giant leap for South Asia," said Salim, who has booked a ticket on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space project planned for 2015.

"I commend the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and all its scientists and researchers for not only achieving this astronomical feat, but also for achieving it in the most cost-effective manner."

India's spacecraft has beamed back its first photos of Mars, showing its crater-marked surface, as the country glowed with pride Thursday after winning Asia's race to the Red Planet.

The ISRO uploaded one of the photos onto its Facebook page, showing an orange surface and dark holes, taken from a height of 7.3 kilometers.

ISRO also posted the photo on Twitter, with the caption "The view is nice up here."

A senior ISRO official told AFP several photos have been successfully received, while a spokesman for the government agency said the spacecraft was working well.

India became the first Asian country to reach Mars on Wednesday when its unmanned Mangalyaan spacecraft entered the orbit after a 10-month journey on a shoestring budget.

The mission, which is designed to search for evidence of life on the planet, is a huge source of national pride for India as it competes with Asian rivals for success in space.

India beat rival neighbor China, whose first attempt flopped in 2011 despite the Asian superpower pouring billions of dollars into its program.

At just $74 million, India's mission cost is less than the estimated $100 million budget of the sci-fi blockbuster "Gravity".

It also represents just a fraction of the cost of NASA's $671 million MAVEN spacecraft, which successfully began orbiting the fourth planet from the sun on Sunday.

India now joins an elite club of the United States, Russia and Europe who can boast of reaching Mars. More than half of all missions to the planet have ended in failure.

The mission's success received front-page coverage in Indian newspapers on Thursday, with the Hindustan Times declaring "MARTIAN RACE WON" and the Times of India saying "India enters super exclusive Mars club."

Indians, from government ministers to office workers and cricketers poured onto Twitter to show their national pride, while school students celebrated by eating traditional Indian sweets.
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45
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