Just days after a devastating blackout wiped out light and power across one half of the country (raising doubts about its status as a global technological superpower), India said it plans to launch a mission to Mars late next year.

The craft will assume orbit around the Red Planet in order to study its geology and climate patterns.

Indian media reported the orbiter should assume its position around Mars by September 2014.

"We will embark on the Mars mission after the Department of Science gives the green [light] and decides the schedule early next year," Deviprasad Karnik, director of the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), told Agence France Presse (AFP).

The orbiter will be carried by a 320-ton Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

An unnamed ISR) official told AFP the cost of the mission will be as high as 5 billion rupees ($90 million).

India does not envision sending any manned missions into outer space until 2016.

The announcement comes shortly after India’s principal Asian rival China said it planned to attempt a moon landing in the second half of next year.

India’s space program, ambitious in scope, has suffered a number of setbacks over the years.

In December 2010 a satellite failed and landed in the Bay of Bengal.

India is desperately seeking to match the space exploits of other major countries -- U.S., Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China, have already launched a total of 44 space missions to Mars (although only 19 of those have been successful).