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India’s space agency has released its first picture of Mars, taken by its satellite which entered orbit around the Red Planet on Wednesday.”The view is nice up here,” tweeted @isro. A handful of images have been sent by the Mangalyaan probe so far.Part of its mission is to study the Martian atmosphere for signs of life.It is the first time a maiden voyage to Mars has entered orbit successfully and it is the cheapest. Nasa’s current Maven mission cost 10 times more.Media in India have hailed the venture as a “historic achievement”.The Hindu newspaper reported that the probe “has beamed back about 10 pictures of the Red Planet’s surface which show some craters”.Officials were quoted by the newspaper as saying the pictures were of “good quality”.India’s space programme has succeeded at the first attempt where others have failed – by sending an operational mission to Mars.It is, without doubt, a considerable achievement. This is a mission that has been budgeted at 4.5bn rupees ($74m), which, by Western standards, is staggeringly cheap.The American Maven orbiter that arrived at the Red Planet on Monday is costing almost 10 times as much.Back in June, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi even quipped that India’s real-life Martian adventure was costing less than the make-believe Hollywood film Gravity.Reports said the camera was the first of the instruments being carried by the satellite to be switched on, a few hours after it entered the planet’s orbit.India’s 1,350kg (2,976lb) robotic satellite, which undertook a 10-month-long 200-million-kilometre journey, is equipped with five instruments.They include a thermal imaging spectrometer to map the surface and mineral wealth of the planet and a sensor to track methane or marsh gas – a possible sign of life.The mission will also analyse the thin Martian atmosphere.India has become the fourth nation or geo-bloc to put a satellite into orbit around Mars, and the first from Asia.Only the US, Russia and Europe have previously sent missions to Mars, and India has succeeded at its first attempt – an achievement that eluded even the Americans and the Soviets.
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