The countdown to India's first mission to Mars to launch an unmanned spacecraft on a nine-month journey to the planet has begun.
Mangalyaan (Mars-craft) is scheduled at 2.36 pm on Tuesday from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR at space port of Sriharikota in coastal Andhra Pradesh, 80 kilometres from Chennai.
India is hoping to become the fourth country in the world, after the US, Russia and Europe, to reach the Red Planet with the launch of its first interplanetary probe, Mars Orbiter Spacecraft onboard PSLV-C25 (in its XL version), that cost ₹450 crore or $73 million.
On Independence Day this year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced the conception of Mangalyaan from the ramparts of the Red Fort. "Our spaceship will go near Mars and collect important scientific information. This Mangalyaan will be a huge step for us in the area of science and technology," he said.
The mission was completed in a record 15 months after being fast-tracked, which could be seen as an election strategy by the ruling-Congress for upcoming general elections in 2014.
The whopping cost of the 3,000-pound Mars Orbiter Mission probe has also been criticised by civic groups.
"I think it's so strongly symbolic of an extremely unequal society. We continue to have something like 230 million people who sleep hungry every night, and millions die because they can't afford healthcare. Yet these are not issues that cause outrage." Harsh Mander, director of think tank Center for Equity Studies and a former advisor to the prime minister on social issues, told LA Times.
However, Opposition parties congratulated the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and conveyed good wishes for the launch of the PSLV-C25.
"Best wishes to our scientists for the Mars Mission. It is a proud moment for the nation & we all pray for the Mission's success," Narendra Modi, BJP prime ministerial candidate for the Lok Sabha polls, posted on Twitter.
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