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India’s Mars Probe Passes Key Test for Red Planet Orbit

Indian scientists successfully tested the main engine of a spacecraft bound for Mars on Monday and performed a course correction that put the low-cost project on track to enter orbit around the Red Planet. The $74 million mission will fire its engine for orbital insertion early Wednesday, New Delhi time. If successful, it will be the first time any nation has put a spacecraft into Martian orbit on its first attempt, enhancing India's position in the global space race.

The Indian Space Research Organization said its Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft, also known as MOM or Mangalyaan, executed "a perfect burn for four seconds as programmed" on Monday. The engine was tested after being idle for 300 days, and is due to fire for 24 minutes during the crucial maneuver. MOM's mission to study the Martian atmosphere and surface is complementary to that of NASA's Maven orbiter, which arrived in Mars orbit late Sunday. MOM's budget is just one-ninth of Maven's.

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— Reuters and NBC News