The Mars mission should not have been a priority at this stage for India which, instead, ought to have devoted time and energy on getting its rocket operational again and give momentum to the human space flight programme, former ISRO chief G Madhavan Nair said.
"My personal opinion is: this (Mars mission) is not a big priority project for us. We should have concentrated more on qualifying the cryogenic engine (for GSLV-Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) and make our manned mission initiative move forward," Nair.
The Union Cabinet last night gave go-ahead to the Mars mission, clearing the proposal of Department of Space to put a satellite in an orbit around Mars to study the Red Planet.
Nair, who has accomplished 25 successful missions during his tenure of six years as Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Secretary in the Department of Space, argued that for India, the manned mission (human space flight programme) is the "immediate priority".
"That's where the big gap is. The United States space shuttle has failed and they don't have a launch vehicle. Only Russians have an operating system. China went to the extent of creating a mini (space) station," he said.
"So, in that race India is lagging behind and unless we give a major thrust to Indian manned mission, I think we will be left behind."
Nair said India's proposed Mars mission is "only a very small payload with not very big scientific objective".
"We cannot say we can make an impact even nationally or internationally in that (Rs 450 crore Mars mission).
Terming the Mars mission as a "peripheral thing", he said
ISRO should, instead, spend its time and energy on qualifying the indigenous cryogenic engine and stage for GSLV (rocket) as also for GSLV-Mk III, which is being developed to carry four-tonne class of satellites.