France will collaborate with India on a mission to put a lander on the red planet Mars. This was among 14 important agreements signed by the two countries during a visit by French President Francois Hollande.
A letter of intent was signed between the space agencies of the two countries – France's CNES and India's Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) – with the former declaring its participation in the next ISRO mission, set for 2018.
"After India's Mars orbiter, the next step has to be a lander. A lander on Mars is not easy, but it will be interesting to undertake," Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of CNES, told NDTV, an Indian news channel. "India's Mangalyaan is very impressive," he said, noting that "Mangalyaan is a good example of Make in India and of low-cost space exploration."
Le Gall said France would bring to the partnership its scientific expertise on the planets Mars and Venus.
The Mangalyaan mission was launched on a home-grown PSLV rocket from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on 5 November 2013.
In 2014, India successfully placed its low-cost spacecraft in the orbit of Mars on its first attempt, joining the US, Russia and Europe in the feat. The space probe entered Mars' orbit on 24 September, almost a year after its launch.
The Mangalyaan has been in Mars' orbit for over 15 months and is currently located around 200 million km from Earth.
Apart from the Mars programme, India and France also signed agreements for a future earth observation satellite and to place French Argos-4 data collection payload in Oceansat-3, which may be launched in 2018.