India's maiden mission to Mars left Earth's orbit early Sunday and successfully entered the second phase of its 10-month-long voyage to the Red Planet after performing a crucial manoeuvre described as "mother of all slingshots".
Clearing a critical hurdle to achieve a major milestone in the country's space history,ISRO's Mars Orbiter Spacecraft or 'Mangalyaan' was placed in the designated Mars Transfer Trajectory in a 22-minute manoeuvre almost an hour past midnight without any hitch to tear itself away from Earth's gravitational pull.
It marked the first step of the Mars mission 680 million-km-long voyage to its destination to put on course the India's first ever inter-planetary space odyssey.
"Following the completion of this manoeuvre, the Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended. The spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun," the Bangalore-headquartered Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) said in a statement.
During this manoeuvre, which began at 00:49 hours, the spacecraft's 440 Newton liquid engine was fired for about 22 minutes providing a velocity increment of 648 metres/second to the spacecraft.
ISRO performed the trans-Mars injection, a "crucial event" intended for hurling its Mars Orbiter spacecraft into the planned orbit around the Sun.
It has planned four mid-course corrections in case of any deviation along its path to the Martian orbit before its expected arrival in the orbit of the Red planet in September 2014.
ISRO had performed five orbit-raising manoeuvres on its Mars Orbiter, raising the apogee (farthest point from Earth) of the spacecraft to over 1.92 lakh km, before it performed the "mother of all slingshots."
The spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Spacecraft Control Centre at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennae at Byalalu here.
The success of the spacecraft, scheduled to orbit Mars by September, could carry India into a small club of nations including the US, Europe, and Russia, whose probes have orbited or landed on Mars. More than half of all missions to the planet have ended in failure, including