Why embark on a moon mission now considering other countries have been running these for the past 50 years?
(The first such successful effort was by Russia’s Luna 1 in 1959.) Because it is still the best way for our country to become a serious player among countries engaged in space exploration. It acknowledges that lagging behind in space research means being second best in everything, no matter how developed a country’s technological capabilities are otherwise.
Over the last 40 years, ISRO has worked hard to enter the exclusive club of six nations — the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China, and Japan — that have mastered satellite and rocket technology.
It isn’t so much the idea of planting the tricolour on the moon as having the capability to do so that drives India’s lunar ambitions. As former chairman and current advisor to ISRO, K. Kasturirangan said, “Chandrayaan will show the world that India can take up complex projects at the cutting edge of space research."
The technology driving Chandrayaan is as much homespun as it is high-tech. The 11 instruments it carries are the maximum any lunar probe has carried before: five from ISRO, and six from other space agencies. This signals the beginning of a new era in international cooperation in space exploration.
There are humanistic and political reasons for travelling towards Earth’s lone satellite as well. The moon is an important staging post for missions to Mars and beyond.
Besides, a space programme pays for itself many times over just by the scientific perspective and spin-offs it provides. In
fact, as technology changes, cheaper electronics could make space missions more economical than staging the Commonwealth Games.