India sets its sights on Mars
NEW DELHI—India plans to send a spacecraft to Mars next year in a giant leap forward for science and technology in the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said yesterday.
Singh said the unmanned spacecraft will enter orbit around the planet and collect scientific information.
“This spaceship to Mars will be a huge step for us in the area of science and technology,” he remarked.
The spacecraft is to be launched in November, 2013 on a frequently-used rocket developed by the Indian Space Research Organization.
India has had an active space program since the 1960s. Since the 1970s, it has launched scores of satellites for itself and for nearly two dozen other countries.
In 2008, India successfully sent a probe to the moon that detected evidence of water on the lunar surface for the first time.
India also is planning a rover mission to the moon and is awaiting budgetary approval for a manned space mission.
Critics of Singh’s Congress party say the government’s priorities are skewed and it should concentrate instead on providing the basic needs of people such as electricity and safe drinking water.
Last week, more than 600 million people lost power for hours when the country’s decrepit electricity grid collapsed.
Indian scientists dismiss the criticism, saying technology developed as part of the space program has resulted in spin-offs in other areas.
“It is certainly not a question of misplaced priorities,” former ISRO chief U.R. Rao said to The Asian Age newspaper.