On Tuesday, India began its first mission to Mars. In about 10 months, we'll find out if India joins the small and elite group of space explorers (the Europeans, the former Soviet Union, and NASA) who have successfully sent probes to the Red Planet. The Indian Space Research Organization launched its first interplanetary spacecraft today, hoping to study the loss of water from Mars, investigate methane gas, and collect data about Phobos and Deimos, Mars's two moons, CNN reports. The project is called the Mars Orbiter Mission (a.k.a. MOM, which is actually really cute.)
"If the satellite orbits the Red Planet, India's space agency will become the fourth in the world after those of the US, Russia and Europe to undertake a successful Mars mission," the BBC reports. A handful of countries have tried to go to Mars and have failed, like Japan in 1998, Russia in 2012, and the U.K.'s Beagle mission in 2003. Even NASA has lost its share of equipment on the way there. Getting to our neighbor planet is apparently really difficult:
ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan told CNN that one of the biggest technological challenges was just getting there. Many missions have failed to reach the planet while others have crashed on the surface or contact has been lost before the probes could send back data.
If all goes well, the MOM arrive at the Red Planet next September. "In order for the MOM to embark on the right trajectory for its 300-day, 780-million km journey, it must carry out its final orbital burn by 30 November," the BBC reports.