India launched its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) for the Red Planet - a first for the South Asian country - on 5 Nov 2013 and the robotic spacecraft is due to reach orbit on 24 Sep 2014.
If successful, the mission will reveal more about the planet's surface features, minerals and atmosphere and collect data about the two moons Phobos and Deimos. One instrument is set to search for and map methane in the Martian atmosphere. The technological challenges of the mission for the Indian space agency (ISRO) are daunting; fewer than half the missions launched towards the planet have succeeded. Some failed to reach it. Others crashed on landing or failed to send back data. Known informally as Mangalyaan (Mars-craft), the Indian Mars mission is a new stage in India's ventures into Space. It launched its first Earth satellite in 1975 and put an unmanned probe into orbit around the Moon in 2008.
Date written/update: 2013-11-20