Photo: AP/M. Lakshman
India is hoping to send its first spacecraft to Mars by next year in new $82 million plan, according to Bloomberg.The timing is key — every 26 months, Mars reaches a point in its orbit which brings it closest to Earth. India hopes to capitalise on this window of opportunity, and announced a plan today during a speech by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh commemorating the 65th anniversary of India’s independence from British rule.
Details are hard to come by but one report by Science Insider says that 25 kilograms of scientific instruments wil be attached to the unmanned orbiter, planned for takeoff in November 2013. It’s also reported that the craft will follow a highly elliptical orbit—500 km by 80,000 km— around Mars.
The announcement was instantly met with criticism. With more than 800 million Indians living on less than $2 a day, critics pointed out that money going to the program could be spent on other, more pertinent measures. Two areas which come to mind: providing safe drinking water and a more reliable electric grid system. Two weeks ago, 600 million Indians were without power after the grid failed, marking the world’s largest blackout.
Critics also expressed doubts about the feasibility of the project. In December 2010, a satellite launch ended in failure when the vehicle exploded over the Bay of Bengal after it failed to follow its intended path, reports the AFP.
At the moment, only Russia, Europe, the United States, Japan, and China have sent missions to Mars.
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