After the moon mission, India wants to reach out to Mars and the government is keen to jump onto a possible global bandwagon for this potentially exciting planetary exploration.
Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman G Madhavan Nair said the United States and Europe appear to favour a global partnership in this context, and India would be more than willing to be a partner in this huge exercise.
"For mankind, the next interesting thing (after moon) is Mars," Nair told PTI in Bangalore.
"To reach there and make an investigation is a big challenge. After the moon, Mars could be logical step," he said.
India has proposed an unmanned scientific mission to moon (Chandrayaan-I) in early 2008, in a Rs 380 crore project.
The 525 kg satellite is planned to be launched on board India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and placed in 100 km polar orbit around the moon.
It will have a life-time of two years. On Mars, he said there were many countries looking forward to reach the planet in the 2010-2015 time frame.
"My personal opinion is we should not be left behind in the race," he said.
According to him, the US and Europe have suggested a global partnership for planetary explorations.
"If planetary explorations become an international theme, it benefits all. We (India) will welcome such a move (global partnership) from any quarter," Madhavan, who is also the secretary in the Department of Space said.
The ISRO chairman said the Indian space agency is not shying away from manned mission to the moon.
"It's not a question of shying away. Whether we need it (manned mission to moon) immediately or not; that debate is going on. Opinion is truly divided. Some people believe the instruments themselves are more than adequate. Robots can do the job and so on. A few others believe it (manned mission) is a national pride and we should do it. We are also subjecting this for an internal review as well as in various professional bodies. Maybe in the course of a year, we will have better clarity on that (whether or not India should go for a manned mission)," he said.
"If we decide to do such a job, yes, we will gear up for facing such a challenge," he said.
Asked if ISRO has plans to go in for a manned mission, after the unmanned moon one, Nair said manned mission is going to be very expensive and one has to do cost-benefit analysis.
"So, when all this analysis is complete and if there is a positive edge on that (manned mission), we will do it," he added.
Nair also said it's not the fear of failure that's holding back ISRO on a manned mission.
"Any ISRO mission is of that kind, very, very complex. We have got rockets with hundreds of sub-systems. Satellites with equal complexities in terms of computer and power. Risk has to be taken. In any field there is a finite chance of failure. We have to take risk," he said.
He also said ISRO, at the same time, is also studying technologies associated with manned mission. On China's manned missions to moon, Nair said he believed India's neighbour would have got technologies for it from Russia.