India Blasts Off to Mars


IN SPACE - JUNE 26: NASA's Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope took this picture June 26, 2003 of Mars. Mars was approximately 43 million miles (68 million km) from Earth, the closest Mars has ever been to Earth since 1988. Frosty white water ice clouds and swirling orange dust storms above a vivid rusty landscape reveal Mars as a dynamic planet in this sharpest view ever obtained by an Earth-based telescope. Hubble can see details as small as 10 miles (16 km) across. Especially striking is the large amount of seasonal dust storm activity seen in this image. One large storm system is churning high above the northern polar cap (Top) and a smaller dust storm cloud can be seen nearby. (Photo by NASA/Getty Images)

Suit up, Mars, India’s coming to town. President Pranab Mukherjee announced Thursday that his Asian nation will be launching its first mission to Mars this year. Set for blastoff in October, the unmanned spacecraft—complete with a navigational satellite—will likely take at least nine months to make it to the Red Planet. While the news is a welcome boost for Indians yeaning for a more prominent place on the world stage, it is also the subject of much scrutiny. In a nation plagued by malnutrition and other maladies, an $83 million operation is an extravagant play. The government of India has allocated $1.2 billion to the program in this fiscal year alone.