The countdown for the final destination of India's Mars Orbiter Mission has begun with just a month to go before it is placed in orbit around the Red Planet on September 24.
Nine million kilometres from Mars and 189 million kilometres away from Earth, 33 more days to Mars, notes the Indian space agency Isro [Indian Space Research Organization] on its Facebook profile.
The engine firing for the crucial Mars Orbital Insertion (MOI) will take place in September to place India's first space voyager in orbit around Mars.
Launched on 5 November, 2013 from India's spaceport at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, by the organisation's tried and tested warhorse -- the indigenous four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle -- the craft has travelled a total distance of 602 million kilometres in its sun-centric arc towards Mars.
Weighing 1350 kilograms (2980 pounds) the probe will fire its engines on 24 September to be placed into an elliptical orbit around Mars approaching the closest at 377 kilometres and going as far away as 80,000 kilometres.
The probe has been moving as planned and did not even require the scheduled trajectory correction this month. The last such manoeuvre was performed on 11 June by firing the spacecraft's thrusters for 16 seconds.
The Mars Orbiter Mission is continuously monitored by the Indian Deep Space Network on the outskirts of Bangalore and Nasa JPL's Deep Space Network.
Designed and developed by Isro at a cost of $69m, this was meant to prove technological capability at minimal cost.
Equipped with five indigenous payloads that include a multi-colour imager, thermal imaging spectrometer and a methane gas sniffer, the probe will study the atmosphere and the soil of the planet.
The Indian orbiter will be preceded by Nasa's MAVEN orbiter. Together they will join a fleet of three other orbiters from Nasa and the ESA.