India plans to send a space mission to Mars next year in a giant leap forward for science and technology in the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Wednesday.

Singh said the unmanned spacecraft will enter orbit around the planet and collect scientific information.

He announced the mission during a speech 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 4.5 billion rupee ($82 million) mission is likely to be launched in November 2013 with a rocket developed by the Indian Space Research Organization.

India has had an active space program since the 1960s. Since the mid-1970s, it has launched scores of satellites for itself and for nearly two dozen other countries. India sent a spacecraft into orbit around the moon in 2008.

Last week, the U.S. space agency NASA successfully landed a rover named Curiosity on Mars and has begun a host of scientific studies of the planet.

 

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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