India’s Mars satellite ‘Mangalyaan’ takes first pictures

The Indian satellite which entered orbit around Mars on Wednesday has begun work, taking pictures of the planet’s surface, media reports say.

Space agency officials said a handful of images had been sent and were being processed before being released.

The “Mangalyaan” robotic probe, one of the cheapest interplanetary missions ever, will also study the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

Media in India have hailed the mission as a “historic achievement”.

The Hindu┬ánewspaper reported that the probe “has beamed back about 10 pictures of the Red Planet’s surface which show some craters”.

Officials were quoted by the newspaper as saying the pictures were of “good quality”. They will reportedly be shown to Prime Minister Narendra Modi before being made public.

Reports said the camera was the first of the instruments being carried by the satellite to be switched on, a few hours after it entered the planet’s orbit.

India’s 1,350kg (2,976lb) robotic satellite, which undertook a 10-month-long 200-million-kilometre journey, is equipped with five instruments.

They include a thermal imaging spectrometer to map the surface and mineral wealth of the planet and a sensor to track methane or marsh gas – a possible sign of life.

The mission will also analyse the thin Martian atmosphere.

India has become the fourth nation or geo-bloc to put a satellite into orbit around Mars.

Only the US, Russia and Europe have previously sent missions to Mars, and India has succeeded on its first attempt – an achievement that eluded even the Americans and the Soviets.