NEW DELHI (AP) — India plans to send a spacecraft to Mars next year on a scientific mission critics say shows the governing party's skewed priorities when people lack electricity and safe drinking water.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the 4.5 billion rupee ($82 million) mission during a speech Wednesday marking the 65th anniversary of India's independence from British rule.
"This spaceship to Mars will be a huge step for us in the area of science and technology," he said.
The spacecraft will orbit Mars to collect data after its launch in November 2013 on a frequently used rocket developed by the Indian Space Research Organization.
India has had an active space program since the 1960s and has launched scores of satellites for itself and other countries.
In 2008, India successfully sent a probe to the moon that detected evidence of water on the lunar surface for the first time. India is also planning a rover mission to the moon and is awaiting budgetary approval for a manned space mission.