India is planning its own mission to Mars next year, aiming to put an orbital probe around the red planet to study its climate and geology, according to top space department officials.
The mission marks the country's most ambitious space program yet, and is likely to be given the go-ahead by the government by Friday after a union cabinet meeting, the Hindustan Times reported.
India's announcement comes on the same as China's announcement that it plans to launch a probe mission to the moon and as US officials at NASA are expected to begin the final phase of their ambitious Mars mission.
India will be the sixth space power to undertake sending a satellite to Mars, following on the heels of the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and China, who was unsuccessful last year. AFP reported that thus far there have been 42 unmanned missions attempted to Mars. Twenty-one of these have failed in the launch phase itself.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is believed to have approved the mission, which is slated for launch on November 20, 2013, the Indian Express reported. According to a top space department official, the cost of the mission is estimated at 4.0-5.0 billion rupees ($70-90 million dollars).
The orbiter should enter Mars's orbit by September 2014, making it a 300-day voyage.
Four years earlier, India sent a probe up to the moon and in September 2009, the satellite discovered water on the moon, upping the country's credibility among other space powers.
However, the space programme suffered a major setback when a satellite launch vehicle blew up and fell into the Bay of Bengal after veering from its intended flight path in December 2010.