NEW DELHI -- India is set to launch a space mission to Mars today that, if successful, would beat China to the punch.
The 3,000-pound Mars Orbiter Mission probe, or Mangalyaan, was set to lift off at 2:38 p.m. local time (4:18 a.m. EST) aboard a 350-ton, four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, the first step in its 300-day trip to the Red Planet.
The launch -- which follows India's successful 2008 moon orbiter mission, the Chandrayaan-1 -- is scheduled to take place at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota on the Bay of Bengal in southeastern India.
India joins the U.S., Russia, China, Japan and the European Union in launching a mission to Mars. But only three of those reached the planet's orbit -- China and Japan failed -- underscoring the long odds.
If all goes as planned, the orbiter will take about 47 minutes to reach Earth orbit, where it will stay until Dec. 1 before starting the 240 million-mile voyage to Mars. The vessel is slated to reach the Red Planet's orbit around Sept. 24, 2014.
Syria vows to vaccinate
DAMASCUS, Syria -- Syria said Monday it will work with international organizations to ensure that all children in the country, even those in rebel-held areas, will be vaccinated against polio following an outbreak of the crippling and highly communicable disease.
The World Health Organization last week confirmed 10 cases of polio among babies and toddlers in northeastern Syria. Aid groups have called for cease-fires to allow immunization campaigns to reach zones affected by fighting.
Musharraf granted bail
ISLAMABAD -- A court granted former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf bail Monday in a case related to the death of a radical cleric in 2007, paving the way for an end to his more than six-month house arrest, his defense lawyer said.
Mr. Musharraf, who has been plagued by legal troubles since he returned to Pakistan in March after years of self-imposed exile, already has been granted bail in three other cases against him. However, he is still prevented from leaving the country, his lawyer Ilyas Saddiqi said.
Nazi-looted art found
BERLIN -- The German government said Monday it had been informed months ago about a valuable trove of art discovered in a Munich apartment, which a German magazine describes as a collection of hundreds of works confiscated by the Nazis or sold cheaply by people desperate to leave Germany.
The magazine, Focus, said the roughly $1.4 billion worth of artwork had been discovered in 2011 in the possession of the son of an art dealer who was among the few authorized by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief, to sell confiscated works for the Nazis.
Focus said the collection included paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Franz Marc and Max Beckmann, and that the trove was found by customs officials investigating the dealer's son, Cornelius Gurlitt, for suspected tax evasion.
Violence flares in Mexico
MEXICO CITY -- Violence erupted in Mexico over the weekend, including a series of drug cartel-related gunfights Sunday in and around the border city of Matamoros that left at least 13 people dead.
Mayor Norma Leticia Salazar told Milenio TV Monday afternoon that armed groups continued to have a presence on the streets, and recommended that residents stay inside. The Autonomous University of Tamaulipas suspended classes at the Matamoros campus.