Suva, Nov 19: Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged the role played by South Pacific Island nation in the success of India's Mars mission in the very first attempt and offered to make it the hub for regional collaboration in space.
Utilising his visit to Fiji, Modi made it a point to express India's gratitude in this regard at every event he addressed during his day-long visit to this country - a joint media interaction after talks with his Fijian counterpart, at the Fijian Parliament and at the Fiji national University.
"I want to convey a special word of gratitude from the people of India for hosting Indian scientists for tracking India's mars mission earlier this year. Together we made history," he said at the media interaction.
Addressing the Fijian Parliament, Modi said, "We could work to make Fiji the hub for our regional collaboration in space, just as India has done with ASEAN."
Fiji is the data collection hub for the Mars mission.
An 18-member team of top scientists and engineers from India's International Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was in Fiji to pave the way for India's mission to Red Planet.
At just USD 74 million, India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also known as Mangalyaan, is the cheapest inter- planetary mission, costing a tenth of NASA's Mars mission Maven that entered the Martian orbit on September 22.
The mission was monitored from Fiji and other parts of the South Pacific Ocean.
ISRO scientist and project leader Mirza Mohammed Zaheer had said the trajectory of the rocket would be over Fiji.
India's High Commissioner to Fiji Vinod Kumar had said with the purpose of tracking, ISRO scientists and other concerned agencies were in Fiji monitoring aboard the two Indian ships from two different points in the Pacific ocean.
He had said the Indian Deep Space Network performed the navigation and tracking operations of the mission while NASA Deep Space Network provided support services during the non-visible period of the Indian Deep Space Network.
"Fiji has been chosen for its ideal location, being a communication hub and our close and friendly relations," he had said.
[With PTI inputs]