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“Several space missions are planned for 2013, including India’s first mission to Mars and the launch of our first navigational satellite,” President Mukherjee said in his maiden address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the start of the Budget session.
The Mars mission means India joins the elite club of five nations comprising of the US, Russia, Europe, China and Japan which have launched similar missions to the planet.
India is stepping up its space programme with a higher budget, the launch of a new satellite and the mission to Mars.
The country’s space agency will attempt ten space missions by November 2013, bringing its total budget to $1.3 billion.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will also put into orbit the first of its seven satellites of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).
The system is India’s version of the Global Positioning System.
The Mars Orbiter mission, scheduled for launch in October, will look for signature of life and reasons for loss of atmosphere on the red planet.
Under the mission, India will put in orbit a spacecraft using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.
The satellite will undertake a 300-day journey to Mars and is expected to be put into the Martian orbit in September next year.
Mukherjee said the space programme epitomised India’s scientific achievements and benefits the country in a number of areas.
“The launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on September 9, 2012 marked our 100th space mission. India’s first remote sensing satellite RISAT-1, with all-weather imaging capability, was also launched in 2012,” he said.
The ISRO has grown into one of the world’s top six space programmes since its inauguration in 1969.
Though its budget is less than one-tenth of NASA’s, it has increased every year since the early 2000s, from $591 million in 2004 to 2005, to $1.3 billion in 2012 to 2013.