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India launches first mission to Mars

The rocket carrying the 3,000-pound orbiter Mangalyaan blasted off from the Indian island of Sriharikota on Tuesday.

EPA

The rocket carrying the 3,000-pound orbiter Mangalyaan blasted off from the Indian island of Sriharikota on Tuesday.

NEW DELHI — India launched its first spacecraft bound for Mars on Tuesday, a complex mission that it hopes will demonstrate and advance technologies for space travel.

Hundreds of people watched the rocket carrying the Mars orbiter take off from the east-coast island of Sriharikota and streak across the sky. Many more across the country watched live TV broadcasts.

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Officials at the space center described it as a ‘‘textbook launch.’’ If the mission is successful, India will become only the fourth space program to visit the red planet after the Soviet Union, the United States, and Europe.

‘‘Capturing and igniting the young minds of India and across the globe will be the major return from this mission,’’ mission director P. Kunhikrishnan said.

After 44 minutes, the orbiter separated from the rocket and entered into an elliptical path around Earth. Over the next 20 to 25 days, it will perform a series of technical maneuvers and short burns to raise its orbit before it slingshots toward Mars.

The 3,000-pound orbiter Mangalyaan must travel 485 million miles over 300 days to reach an orbit around the red planet next September.

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