With Mars orbiter, India boldly goes where it hasn't been before
Scientists and engineers work on a Mars Orbiter vehicle at the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) satellite centre in Bangalore on September 11, 2013. The Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft will be launched by the polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV-C25) between October 21 and November 19.
India will try its hand at interplanetary exploration on Tuesday as the country launches its first unmanned Mars orbiter, the Mangalyaan. If successful, India will be the fourth nation to reach Mars, and they're doing it for the relatively inexpensive -- at least by America standards -- price of $72 million.
"It's there for scientific purposes, but it's also there for morale -- and for the Indians to say to China, 'Hey, we can do it. Doesn't look like you can,'" says the BBC's Rahul Tandon, reporting from Calcutta.
But the mission isn't without controversy.
"We talk a lot about the next century being the one for the Chinese and the Indians, and the space race, I think, is an important part of that," Tandon says. "But there are many people here in India who say, in a country with such high levels of malnutrition, with such poor levels of infrastructure -- half the population not having access to toilets -- should India really be involved in such a race at all?"