Look Out Mars, India’s Gonna Get Ya!

India has officially given up on its lunar probe Chandrayaan-1, which launched in 2008 and stayed alive for ten months before mission controllers lost radio contact. But officials are already looking forward to sending a robotic explorer to the red planet.

The nation’s state-run space agency announced today a mission to Mars between 2013 and 2015. Xinhua reports that the planning will become reality after India launches its Chandrayaan-2 lunar rover in 2011.

India joined a new space race with Japan, China and the European Space Agency by launching its Chandrayaan-1 probe in 2008. The U.S. and Russia no longer hold claim as the only nations to have scouted Earth’s natural satellite.

BBC called India’s $100 million lunar mission a “mixed success,” given that the spacecraft survived a number of technical issues that could have ended everything early. A rocket fuel leak almost prevented it from getting off the ground, and a back-up power system had to activate within days of reaching the moon.

Indian mission control also scrambled successfully to prevent the spacecraft from fatally overheating, and jury-rigged workaround solutions when it lost an onboard star sensor due to intense radiation. Chandrayaan-1 finally fell silent on August 29, and India officially terminated the mission a day later.

Still, BBC added that the mission represented a huge technical accomplishment in several ways. Only China had ever previously succeeded on its maiden lunar mission, and India also became the first nation to succeed with both a lunar orbiter and impactor on its first attempt.

The recent Mars mission announcement points to an increasingly competitive future for space exploration. China in particular has aggressive goals to launch a military space station by 2010, and even perhaps to beat NASA’s foundering Constellation program back to the moon.

India has also laid plans for a debut manned mission around 2015. But unlike China, it might want to consider not ruling out astronaut candidates based on bad breath.