CHENNAI (TIP): India’s first Mars orbiter spacecraft underwent a second crucial orbitraising exercise in the wee hours of November 8 as part of its five-stage preparation to leave the Earth orbit on December 1. Isro scientists at the Spacecraft Control Centre in Bangalore fired the engine of the spacecraft at 2.18am, for about 10 minutes. “The second orbit raising manueour of Mars orbiter spacecraft, starting at 02:18:51 hrs (IST) on Nov 08, 2013, with a burn time of 570.6 seconds has been successfully completed,” Isro said in a statement. With this, the farthest point of the orbiter from earth (apogee) has gone up from 28,814km to 40,186km. In a similar manoeuvre early on Thursday, scientists raised the orbit from 23,550km. At its closest point to earth, the spacecraft is only 252km away as it moves in a highly elliptical orbit. Three more such operations will be conducted in the coming week. The idea is to keep increasing the apogee and give the spacecraft enough velocity to escape the Earth orbit without consuming too much fuel. Crucial for this will be an exercise called the trans-Martian injection planned on December 1 when, in a slingshot-like movement, the orbiter would leave the Earth orbit and start coasting towards Mars, 400 million kilometres away. It is expected to reach the red planet’s orbit on September 24, 2014.