India prepares for blast off on its first trip to Mars

India is counting down to its maiden voyage to Mars later today with its unmanned orbiter Mangal­yaan, aka Mars Orbiter Mission.

India's Mars Orbiter Mission, the country's first interplanetary foray, is due to blast off today.
India's Mars Orbiter Mission, the country's first interplanetary foray, is due to blast off today. Credit: Reuters

It will take 11 months for the aircraft to reach the Red Planet, where it will conduct "meaningful scientific experiments" according to K Radhakrishnan, chair of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Among the Mars Orbiter Mission's ambitious goals is a search for methane in the Martian atmosphere. On Earth, the chemical is strongly tied to life.

Read: One in five stars 'circled by Earth-like planet'

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India launches rocket to Mars

India has launched an unmanned rocket to Mars this morning on its first mission to the planet. The spacecraft will travel for 300 days and reach Mars orbit in September 2014.