It may soon get a little more crowded around Mars: India has successfully launched a spacecraft headed for the red planet, putting the country a 300-day journey away from being the fourth space agency to get there, the BBC reports. The Mars Orbiter Mission took off from a base on India's east coast this morning and if it survives the journey, it will carry out experiments including searching for methane in the Martian atmosphere.
NASA, the European Space Agency, and the former Soviet Union have successfully sent probes to Mars, but failure is pretty common, CNN notes. Britain's Beagle 2 probe vanished in 2003, a Chinese probe was lost last year, and Japan's Nozomi orbiter was unable to reach its goal in 1998. Some commentators wonder why a country with such high rates of malnutrition is spending money on a Mars program, but the program's defenders say the project is relatively cheap, at $72 million, and will result in technological development that could benefit India's industries.