India announces plans to launch Mars orbiter in 2013

In this handout image provided by Walt Disney World Resort, a simulated Mars Rover makes tracks through red soil at Walt Disney World Resort April 6, 2004 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

You might remember our reporting a couple of weeks ago about power outages in India that blacked out half the country. With challenges like that, some folks were a little surprised when India's prime minister announced a mission to Mars. India's Space Research Organization plans to launch its Mars orbiter in November 2013.

Raul Tandon is a reporter in Calcutta. He says there seemed to be a sense of surprise at the announcement of the mission. But the possible reasoning behind the mission: "The feeling here is that it is about prestige. It's about India emerging on the world stage. It's about India competing very much with its neighbor China as well."

But Tandon says that with the projected costs for the mission currently set around $80 million, some are questioning whether this space mission is what the country needs after the recent power outages, or if that money should be going to infrastructure. One argument, says Tandon: "I think the Indians are saying -- those involved in the space program -- that $80 million may sound like a huge sum of money, but when India needs $1 trillion in infrastructure, this $80 million wouldn't make much of a difference here." Still, he says, most aren't convinced.

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.

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