From about 6 a.m. on Friday, ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM),'' was keyed to the com watching the live webcast from the missions operations control room at John Hopkins Univesity's Applied Physics Lab.
Why so early in the day? The reason is that in about an hour Nasa's Messenger spacecraft, launched on August 3,2004, would be entering the orbit around Mercury becoming the first in the world to accomplish this tremendous feat.
And it happened at about 7.15 a.m. (IST), raising a loud round of applause in the missions operations control room. Said an official: `` We are in orbit. We hit the trajectory perfectly. We were worried about the communications. There were certain manourvres and there were indications that the burn went off well,'' he said.
Messenger project manager, Peter Bedine, recalled that some people had worked on the programme for the last 15 years. ``It is a wonderful thing. The navigation and guidance team did a wonderful job and they are the stars now. The management was nervous, but the team was calm,'' he said.
On April 4,2011, the process of switching on the science experiments will be initiated.
According to Nasa for the next several weeks engineers of the Applied Physics Laboratory will be focussed on ensuring that the spacecraft's system perform satisfactorily in Mercury's harsh thermal enviironment.
A great day for space history.