The memory of the last four hours before the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was declared a success will most likely last a lifetime for those who were present on Wednesday at the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Centre (ISTRAC) at Byalalu on the outskirts of Bangalore.
As the first media crews entered the facility at around 4 am, the pressure was evident on the faces of everybody present - from the security personnel, ushers and catering staff to the topmost scientists.
Journalists, who had arrived from across the country, too were sweating on the trigger as they checked and re-checked their equipment and pored over their fact sheets in preparation for the big moment. What would their opening lines be when the mission succeeded? What if, against all odds, it failed?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi sure had a sense of the pulse when he said that this was a thousand times more important than a cricket match.
Though it was the first crucial step, few smiles went around when the spacecraft's medium gain antenna activated without a hitch at 4.20 am. The successful rotation of the craft to face the forward position was mechanically noted. Modi's arrival at around 7.10 am was not even a mild distraction as all eyes focussed on the large monitors in the control room.
The first grins broke out at 7.29 am when confirmation came in that the craft's engine had fired; Silence again for the next 24 minutes when the probe entered the eclipse phase. Dozens of CISF security personnel abandoned their posts and peeked into the control room
At 8 am, six of the large screens flashed the magic number that everybody was waiting for: "1099.98" - It indicated that there had been a successful change in the velocity of the spacecraft."We did it!" somebody in the press box shouted. A spontaneous cheer went up. The scientists, who were separated from the media by a thick glass wall, turned around and flashed victory signs. Cameras sputtered. Modi hugged K Radhakrishnan. History was made.