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Indians beam with pride over successful — and cheap — Mars mission – Part 1

India has joined the U.S., the former Soviet Union and the European Union as one of the elite few to successfully send a spacecraft to Mars, on its first try and for only $75 million -- a fraction of the cost of other space missions. But there have been debates over whether the money could be better spent in a country where millions live in poverty. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now let's turn to a space story that captured the world's attention today, as India claims a triumph in its first mission to Mars.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Cheers erupted at the Indian Space Research Organization on word that the satellite named Mangalyaan, or Mars craft, had swung into Mars orbit.

    Journalist Pallava Bagla was at mission control in Bangalore, and spoke with us via Google Hangout.

  • PALLAVA BAGLA:

    When it emerged from behind Mars and 12 minutes later the signal came that the main rocket engine had its stopped firing, oh, my God, I have never seen such happy faces in India.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    India joins the U.S., the former Soviet Union, and the European Union as the only ones to land a spacecraft on the Red Planet or place one in orbit.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi:

  • NARENDRA MODI, Prime Minister, India:

    History has been created today. We have dared to reach out into the unknown and have achieved the near impossible.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The Indians pulled it off on the first try for just $75 million, less than it cost to make "Gravity," the Oscar-winning blockbuster movie. But there have been debates over whether the money could be better spent in a country where millions live in wrenching poverty.

  • BRINDA ADIGE, Director, Global Concerns India:

    At one end of the spectrum, so much of money that is being spent to send a rocket out into outer space, when we know that here on Earth, in my country, there are children dying every day because they have no food to eat.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Still, the success in space proved inspirational for many, including schoolchildren who arrived in class early to watch the TV coverage.

  • STUDENT:

    It is a very big achievement for India. I mean, we are feeling very proud to be Indians, proud to be born in a country who can do anything.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    India's satellite followed close behind the U.S. MAVEN orbiter, which arrived at Mars on Sunday.

  • BRUCE JAKOSKY, Principal Investigator, MAVEN:

    We are on orbit of Mars, guys.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • BRUCE JAKOSKY:

    And we have taken 11 years to get here, and now we get to do the science that we have been planning for all this time.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    MAVEN cost nearly 10 times that of India's satellite, but their missions are similar, to examine how the planet went from warm and wet to cold and dry.

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