Mars Mission in India: Justified or not?

On 5 November 2013, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) launched ‘Mangalyan’ or Mars Orbiter, and within 10 months, the orbiter/ probe entered the Mars’ orbit. On 24 September 2014, India made history for not one but two reasons:

  • The space probe (orbiter) designed and developed by ISRO entered Mars’ orbit and India became the first and the only country to do so in its first attempt.
  • The MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) program costed India $74 million only (while NASA’s Mars program costed $671 million to USA), which was even less than the production cost of the Hollywood movie, Gravity ($100 MN), essentially making it highly cost effective.

While India was praised for the successful launch and entry of the Mars orbiter, a question was raised whether we needed the same or not.

Arguments for the justification of Mars Mission –

  • This was a monumental moment for every Indian, which not only established the credibility of Indian brains but also made sure that ISRO now stand at an equal level with other space organisations such as NASA, ESA, etc.
  • It inspires future generation to take up science and dream for working in prestigious organisations like ISRO, DRDO, etc.
  • India carries a lot of space equipment of foreign countries like Russia, USA, etc., for a lucrative fee. If India continues on the path of innovation in cost and space, it could become a big space projects hub, meaning increased number of jobs for engineers and foreign money.
  • This exploration project will help in creating knowledge, who would further in space endeavours of not only India but other countries as well.
  • Humankind has always been interested in finding out life existence in other planets. if Mars orbiter is able to find the presence of methane or deuterium patterns indicating the water presence, then that would be a great breakthrough for ISRO, changing the way scientists look at life on other planets.
  • We have budget which is kept for infrastructural development and that is never used properly, not because it was used in space programs, but due to lack of proper execution and implementation of policies, and under utilization of funds. Hence, the question of money utilisation does not arises.

Arguments against the justification of Mars Mission –

  • Developed countries like USA, Europe, etc. have the necessary resources which they could utilised on space exploration programs however India is still developing and it does not have even the resources to feed its citizen or provide them with other basic necessities.
  • There is always an opportunity cost to any project. The money invested in this project could have been utilised in R&D of other important projects related to biotechnology, solar energy or alternative sources of energy, etc., which would have real-time applications.
  • There are other urgent needs in a developing country, which needs to be addressed, such as 40% of children being malnutrition, dismal state of government schools, etc.

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