The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is launching experimental payload of less than 15 kg as against 25 kg planned originally and the Mars Orbiter Mission is expected to be launched in mid-October this year with five experimental payloads.
Meanwhile, Elon Musk, whose Falcon 9 rocket delivers NASA cargo to the International Space Station, wants to construct a futuristic settlement on the Red Planet. The new civilisation would run off sustainable technology and cater only to vegetarians.
Speaking to the Royal Aeronautical Society, Musk revealed he had been waiting for ten years to share his vision.
"Then it seemed ridiculous because there were no rockets, no infrastructure and NASA was the only game in town - and it had no schedule for exploring Mars," said the co-founder of Paypal, a global e-commerce business. But with my work and many others working in the private sector, the mission is coming closer to reality," he added.
"On Mars, you can start a self-sustaining civilisation and grow it into something really big," he said.
The California-based engineer has previously talked about sending the Mass Cargo Transport rocket - powered by liquid oxygen and methane, to Mars - carrying volunteers for about 300,000 pounds a person.
One of America's most respected private space entrepreneurs, Musk - worth about 1.25 billion pounds - has admitted the challenges remain daunting.
These include the dangers of deep-space radiation, bone-rot and toxic dust. He recommends the size of the new society should be around 80,000 people.
"Too few and the gene and culture pool dries up. Too many and you risk civil war," he said.
(with PTI inputs)