(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS' ASIA ECONOMICS AND MARKETS EDITOR, WAYNE ARNOLD, SAYING:

"Mission to Mars: India is going to send a rocket to Mars looking for methane. This is a bit of a suspicious mission.

"They are spending 70 million dollars or thereabouts to join the space race to find life on Mars.

"And what's curious about this is they're going to send a satellite there to sniff for methane. Methane is a natural by-product of living organisms, and so what the satellite is essentially searching for is microbial flatulence.

"The problem is that the Curiosity - Nasa's rover which is already on Mars - has been sniffing the atmosphere for six or eight months and hasn't detected a single whiff of the stuff.

"So one has to really wonder why India is carrying on with this launch, given the fact that the government is trying to ratchet back a budget deficit that its aiming to get down from 5.6 to 4.8 percent of GDP by next March. Nonetheless it is carrying on.

"In fact, the launch was almost delayed because of budgetary concerns - not in India but in the U.S., where NASA was shut down.

"NASA is going to be helping India keep track of the satellite as it heads towards Mars. Instead it was bad weather that cause the launch to be delayed from late October to next week.

"So the question remains why India is persisting with the launch - and some suspect it may not be about finding life on Mars but more about helping India back on earth develop a viable satellite program, a commercial space program, and even possibly better rockets and missiles it can use to defend itself here on the plant.

"So keep an eye on India's stratospheric aspirations next week."

ENDS

 

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