Hot on the heels of China's announcement of its plan to launch a lunar rover in 2013 comes this news from India: in 2013, it'll be launching a mission of its own, not to the Moon, but all the way to Mars. Ambitious, to be sure, but India has even bigger plans in the works.
The Indian Space Research Organisation has just confirmed that it will be sending an orbiter to Mars in 2013. The $90 million satellite will carry about 55 pounds worth of science payload (made up of as many as nine individual instruments), and will "focus on life, climate, geology, origin, evolution and sustainability of life on the planet," the organization says. That's not much of a focus, if you ask me, but then, I'm not a Martian scientist or anything. Oh wait, yes I am!
Anyway, this Mars mission is just a stepping stone for India, which is gearing up to send a manned mission into space in 2016. That will make it the fourth nation to put a human into space using domestically-developed hardware, and the second in just a few years after a huge gap following the Soviets and the U.S. back in the 1960s. This is an exciting time for space exploration, with new countries and all sorts of private companies getting into the game, and we wish India the very best of luck at getting to Mars on its first try.