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Sci-Tech

India's Mars orbiter sends stunning canyon photo

The country's space agency has also released 3D images of the massive canyon known as the Ophir Chasma.

Just in time for India's Independence Day, the country's first interplanetary mission has sent back beautiful images of the Red Planet's surface.

The Indian Space Research Organisation's Mars Orbiter Mission was launched in November 2013 on a shoestring budget compared with other space missions. All up, it's estimated that it cost about $74 million, compared with NASA's $671 million Maven Mars orbiter mission, which launched around the same time.

India's mission, also known as Mangalyaan, which means "Mars-craft" in Sanskrit, has been something of a success story for the country's space agency. It is India's first attempt at an interplanetary mission -- and an ambitious one at that. Mars serves as the next major milestone in space exploration, and India is the first country to succeed in reaching the planet's orbit in its first attempt. More than half of all attempts to reach Mars fail, and India not only got it right on its first try, but it did so at record low cost.

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The Ophir Chasma as photographed from India's orbiter. ISRO

Mangalyaan reached Mars orbit in September 2014. Since then it has monitored the planet, studying its atmosphere and particle environment. It's also been surveying the surface of Mars, sending back images taken with its Thermal Infrared Spectrometer and tricolour Mars Colour Camera.

The most recent one, snapped on July 19, shows a portion the Ophir Chasma, a deep canyon about 317 kilometers (197 miles) long and 62 kilometers (38.5 miles) wide.

"The word chasma has been designated by the International Astronomical Union to refer to an elongate, steep-sided depression," India's space agency said on its website.

"Ophir Chasma is part of the largest canyon system in the solar system known as Valles Marineris. The walls of the chasma contain many layers and the floors contain large deposits of layered materials. This image is taken...at an altitude of 1,857 kilometers (1,154 miles) with a resolution of 96 megapixels."

The project's primary objective, while also aimed at collecting data from Mars, is to serve as a demonstration of India's ability to develop and implement interplanetary space technology.

You can check out more photos snapped by Mangalyaan on the space agency's website.