Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced today that India has set its sight on the Red Planet - Mars.
In India's Independence Day speech, at the Red Fort, Singh said his government has given the nod for plans to put an “unmanned probe in orbit around Mars”. The mission "will be a huge step for us in the area of science and technology," he said.
If all goes as planned, there will be a launch in November 2013 for a 10-month flight, said Kiran Karnik, a former official with the Indian Space Research Organization, today.
"By the time the mission gets there, Mars will be comparatively the closest," Karnik told CNN's sister network CNN-IBN. "So there's a small window in which we need to make a launch and that's the reason the mission has to go up next year."
The mission aims to find clues to the age old questions concerning "geology, origin, evolution and sustainability of life" on Mars, according to an ISRO report published earlier this year.
India's space program has come a long way from launching its first Earth satellite in 1975 and putting an unmanned probe into orbit around the moon in 2008 to aiming for the Red Planet.