Bengaluru/Washington, Aug 22 (The Street Press) – This week, India is competing in a space race to be the first to land on the moon’s south pole. This race isn’t just about science; it also involves national pride and a new aspect: money.
On Wednesday, India’s Chandrayaan-3 will attempt to land on the moon’s south pole. If it succeeds, experts believe it will give a quick boost to India’s growing space industry.
Russia’s Luna-25, launched less than two weeks ago, was supposed to reach there first. But sadly, the lander crashed from orbit, which might have also affected the funding for a future mission, according to experts.
The rush to explore a new part of the moon brings to mind the space race in the 1960s between the United States and the Soviet Union.
However, things are different now, as space has become a business. The moon’s south pole is valuable due to the water ice there, which could help with creating a colony on the moon, mining activities, and even missions to Mars in the future.
India, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has taken steps to make space launches private and is considering allowing foreign investment. The goal is to grow its portion of the global launch market by five times over the next ten years.
If Chandrayaan-3 accomplishes its mission, experts believe that India’s space industry can take advantage of its reputation for cost-effective engineering. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) managed to carry out the mission with a budget of approximately $74 million.
In comparison, NASA is projected to allocate about $93 billion for its Artemis moon program until 2025, according to estimates from the inspector general of the U.S. space agency.
Even in the face of Western sanctions due to its conflict in Ukraine and growing isolation, Russia achieved a moon launch. However, there are concerns among experts about Russia’s capability to financially support a follow-up to the Luna-25 mission. The exact expenses for the mission haven’t been revealed by Russia.
Vadim Lukashevich, a space expert from Moscow, points out that the costs for space exploration are steadily decreasing each year.
Due to Russia’s focus on budgeting for the conflict in Ukraine, it’s highly improbable that they’ll be able to repeat the Luna-25 mission, according to him.
Russia had been contemplating involvement in NASA’s Artemis program until 2021, when it opted to collaborate with China’s moon initiative instead. However, not much has been revealed about this partnership.
In 2019, China achieved the historic feat of making a soft landing on the far side of the moon, and they have further missions in the pipeline. According to the space research firm Euroconsult, China invested around $12 billion in its space program during 2022.
India’s officials have noted that NASA’s move to welcome private investment has become a model they are emulating.
For instance, SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, is not only developing the Starship rocket for satellite launches but also to transport NASA astronauts to the moon’s surface, backed by a $3 billion contract. Apart from that, SpaceX is investing approximately $2 billion this year for Starship’s development.
U.S. space companies like Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines are constructing lunar landers set to launch to the moon’s south pole by the end of the year or in 2024.
Additionally, companies like Axiom Space and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are working on privately funded successors to the International Space Station. Axiom recently secured $350 million in funding from investors in Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
Space endeavors continue to carry significant risks. In 2019, India faced a setback with a failed landing attempt, coinciding with the failure of an Israeli startup’s privately funded moon landing endeavor. This year, a Japanese startup named ispace also encountered an unsuccessful landing attempt.