You probably heard about NASA mission to Mars, maybe you are even familiar with the fact that Soviet Union launched their mission to this planet and they mostly succeeded. But have you known that Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) did the same?
But this is not only about the fact that they completed their mission successfully. It is about how they did it. The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was launched on the 5th November 2013 from the rocket port at Sriharikota on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. It successfully entered Martian orbit on 24th September 2014 after covering a distance of 670 million kilometers. At that moment ISRO became the fourth organization after NASA, the Soviet Union and ESA (Europe) that successfully reached Mars. But what is surprising – no one has ever done it on the maiden voyage. All these agencies had been trying for decades and India one decided to do it, achieved it unimaginably fast.
Mangalyaan (in Sanskrit “Mars Craft”) is based only on Indian technologies. The budget of this mission is extremely low and this is what makes this achievement even more spectacular. Everything cost around 74 million $ which was less than the budget of a movie “Gravity” –which was 100 million $. That was actually the comparison that was used by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On the day when MOM reached Mars called “the red planet”, he was wearing a red jacket and he was extremely proud of what Indian scientists achieved: “History has been created today, we have dared to reach out into the unknown and have achiever the near impossible. We have gone beyond the boundaries of human enterprise and imagination.”On one website I found that Beyonce and Jay Z home in Beverly Hills is worth 85 million $ and Apple budget for new U2 album is 100 million $. It is hard to believe that ISRO spent just 74 million $ and reached another planet. In the whole history of Mars missions you will not find even one with a budget close to ISRO rocket. Just to give you a clue about the cost of expenditures of other organization, I will give you a few examples of recently launched Mars orbiters: MAVEN (NASA) – 671 million $, Mars Express (ESA) – 386 million $ and Phobos- Grunt (Russia) – 117 million $.
How is it possible that India accomplished this project with such a small amount of money in comparison to others? First of all they use small and light rockets because the payload is relatively light – it weighs 15 kilograms in comparison to MAVEN’s 65 kilograms. That makes a huge difference. Engineers in India earn less than those in the USA, the budget of ISRO per year is 1.2 billion $ while at NASA – 17.5 billion. Moreover, the whole mission was carried in a very short time. It took them around one year to launch the satellite after it was approved.
What makes it more unbelievable is that still it is not so easy to reach Mars. Only 21 missions out of 51 attempts are considered successful. Even in the last 2 decades, we could observe many failures experienced by the top countries like USA, China, Russia or Japan. Some people actually claim that the Indian mission is a response to China’s failure in 2011. Just one year after ISRO got an approval for the planned mission. They were full of hopes to become the first Asian country to reach Mars which they achieved.
After Mangalyaan was launched on 5th November 2013 it was placed into Earth orbitwhere it went through 6 maneuvers. The goal was to achieve the escape velocity (11.2 km/s) to get out of the Earth’s gravitation. After that it was transferred into an orbit of the sun. The spacecraft was travelling on Sun’s orbit for nine months and then it reached the proximity of Mars. During that time the trajectory was changed three times even though the plan was to do it four times. Finally, on the 24th September Mangalyaan entered Martian orbit just 3 days after NASA’s MAVEN.
On 24th March 2015 Mars Orbiter Mission completed its initial work, but ISRO extended it for 6 months more. According to data the remained propellant will be enough for several years more. During the first six months the Mars Color Camera delivered lots of new images of the Martian surface.The main goal of this mission is to examine Mars’ atmosphere to confirm the presence of methane as some previous spacecrafts found traces of it.
Unfortunately, there are opponents of this mission too. They argue that with such a big problem of malnutrition among children, poverty, waste disposal and health issues India should have spent this money for a better goal. I understand their point of view, but I can see also a different side of it. USA, Russia or China suffer from so many problems too. In 2011 almost 17 million American kids were living in food insecure households. Why America didn’t use these 671 million $ to make the lives of these children easier? India spent 600 million $ less than America. They saved on fuel and using cheap indigenous technologies and still they achieved their mission. They were not extravagant in spending money. They made their citizens proud of their country. In the future that will also boost the economy by using innovations in communication services. Other countries will buy technologies from India or just pay them to launch their own satellite. They actually already launched an Earth-observation satellite that belongs to Airbus Defense & Space Co. (European consortium), small satellite for German Aerospace Center and a few more from Singapore and Canada. Now the money earned from this can be spent nicely on the poor in India and this is the right way to do it.
India gave the world the signal that they are capable of much more than other countries are expecting. Also Indians can see that India is developing really fast and the country is getting more and more respect in the world.
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