Making the first formal announcement on the country’s Mars mission, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said India will send a mission to the Red Planet that will mark a huge step in the area of science and technology.

“Recently, the Cabinet has approved the Mars Orbiter Mission. Under this Mission, our spaceship will go near Mars and collect important scientific information,” he said addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of the 66th Independence Day.

“This spaceship to Mars will be a huge step for us in the area of science and technology,” Dr. Singh said.

India will be the sixth country to launch a mission to the Red Planet after the U.S., Russia, Europe, Japan and China.

If the mission is successful, India will be the first Asian country to do so as probes sent by China and Japan had to be abandoned en route.

As per the proposal drawn up by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Rs. 450 crore Mars Orbiter Mission is expected to be launched in November next year with a 25 kg scientific payload.

The mission, to study the Martian atmosphere, will be launched by an extended version of ISRO’s warhorse rocket — the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from the spaceport in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

The spacecraft is expected to take nearly 300 days to reach the Martian orbit.

The spacecraft will be placed in an orbit of 500 x 80,000 km around Mars and has a tentative scientific objective for studying the climate, geology, origin, evolution and sustainability of life on the planet.

Scientific payloads for the Mars Orbiter Mission have been short-listed by ISRO’s Advisory Committee for Space Sciences (ADCOS) review committee.

Baseline, solar array and reflector configuration of the satellite have been finalised, officials said.

If the ISRO fails to launch the Mars Mission next year, other opportunities are available in 2016 and 2018.

The Prime Minister also congratulated scientists and technologists who have enhanced the prestige of the country by successfully testing the Agni V Missile and launching the RISAT-I Satellite in space this year.

The Union Cabinet, at a meeting on August 4, 2012 had approved the Mars Orbiter Mission, but an official announcement was not made then as it was to be part of the Prime Minister’s Independence Day address.

More In: Science | Sci-Tech | News | National