Indian PM: India to Launch Mission to Mars

Posted August 15th, 2012 at 8:20 am (UTC-5)
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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says his country plans to launch a spacecraft that will orbit Mars, marking another advancement in India's ambitious space program.

Mr. Singh said Tuesday the unmanned spacecraft will collect important scientific information.

The prime minister called the plan a huge step for India in science and technology.

The spacecraft is expected to be launched as early as November of next year on a rocket developed by the Indian Space Research Organization. The mission is estimated to cost about $80 million.

India has launched many satellites in recent decades. But critics of its space program argue Mr. Singh's Congress Party should instead focus resources on the basic needs of people, including electricity and safe drinking water.

Mr. Singh announced the mission to Mars during a speech marking the 65th anniversary of India's independence from British rule.

The prime minister also addressed a recent slowdown in the country's economy, saying the government has been unable to achieve an environment for rapid economic growth “because of a lack of political consensus on many issues.” He said such issues that affect India's development processes should be seen as “matters of national security.”