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India ready to launch spacecraft on scientific mission to Mars

Oct. 23, 2013 at 7:30 PM

NEW DELHI, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- India says it is preparing to join a very exclusive club -- those countries that have successfully sent a space probe to the planet Mars.

India is expecting to launch a spacecraft toward the Red Planet on Nov. 5, officials with the country's space agency said.

While India's space program has so far focused on aiding the country's development with Earth-observing satellites to spot potential sources of groundwater and monitor deforestation, in 2008 it launched a lunar orbiter.

It has announced proposals for further probes to study the moon and space weather.

Such space missions could lead to new applications in other research areas and encourage a new generation of scientists and engineers, K.R. Sridhara Murthi, who worked at the Indian Space Research Organization for nearly 40 years, told NewsScientist.com.

With the announced $73 million Mars Orbiter Mission India hope to show it can put a working probe into Mars orbit, something so far only accomplished by the United States, Russia and the European Union.

It's a significant challenge, as more than half of all Mars mission by a number of countries have so far failed.

NASA is also planning a November launch of a Mars mission -- MAVEN -- to study the Martian atmosphere.

U.S. space scientists said they were hoping for success for their Indian colleagues.

"To have India executing a successful orbiter mission would be great for space science," Mark Bullock of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said.

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