India to Launch Mission to Mars in 2013

Mars Hubble Photo
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope snapped this shot of Mars on Aug. 26, 2003, when the Red Planet was 34.7 million miles from Earth. The picture was taken just 11 hours before Mars made its closest approach to us in 60,000 years. (Image credit: NASA/ESA)

India is set to launch an unmanned mission to Mars next year, the country's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced this week.

The Mars Orbiter Mission will mark India's first mission aimed at the Red Planet and has been approved by India's Cabinet, Singh said during a speech Wednesday (Aug. 15) to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the country's independence from the British. 

"Under this mission, our spaceship will go near Mars and collect important scientific information," Singh said, according to an official transcript. "This spaceship to Mars will be a huge step for us in the area of science and technology."

The Mars mission is slated to launch in November 2013 and cost about 4.5 billion rupee ($82 million), according to the Associated Press.

India's Mars mission announcement comes on the heels of the landing of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, which touched down on the Red Planet on Aug. 5. The $2.5 billion Curiosity rover weighs a ton and is the size of a Mini Cooper car. NASA expects the rover to spend at least two years exploring its landing site, Gale Crater, to determine if the region could have ever supported microbial life.

India has been working to expand its space program in stages and successfully launched an unmanned orbiter to the moon in 2008. That spacecraft, called Chandrayaan-1, was instrumental in proving that water ice exists on the lunar surface.

The India Space Research Organisation, the country's space agency, is also developing the follow-up moon mission Chandrayaan-2, which is currently expected to launch in 2013 as well. The new mission is expected to include a lunar orbiter, like the Chandrayaan-1 flight, as well as a robotic lander and rover to explore the moon's surface. 

India is also developing its own human spaceflight program and hopes to launch the nation's first manned spaceflight in 2015.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.