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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

Over the Moon

Can India finally send an unmanned mission to moon? Sceptics call it a case of skewed priorities.

Over the Moon
Over the Moon
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

As he took the floor to speak to some of India's top scientists in Bangalore last fortnight, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Kasturirangan was oozing optimism. Indian space scientists will 'now' reach the moon, he proclaimed. A satellite would be designed to cruise around the moon and beam home data and images. And what will this mission achieve? It will launch an unmanned craft at a cost of Rs 400 crore and prove that India's space scientists have finally caught up with the US, almost 34 years after Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon.

Sounds impressive on paper. But an influential section of the Indian scientific community is questioning the much-hyped plan—they are calling the "moon mission" as another case of skewed priorities. Interestingly, even within the ISRO, there are doubts about such a mission.

Here are some questions raised by the sceptics:

 

  • Why launch a lunar mission more than three decades after Apollo 11? Reams of data on the experiments already conducted in lunar conditions are easily accessible. A few satellites are awaiting launch by the European Space Agency and Japan this year.

    • The success of the mission would depend on perfecting the design and miniaturisation of a number of instruments and sensors to be carried on board. Can India produce such sophisticated equipment?
       
    • The project involves risky launch manoeuvres—the satellite has to be nudged towards the moon over a five-day journey (about 4,00,000 km) in space.
       
    • The data thrown up by this mission would benefit only a small section of the scientific community—astronomy and astrophysics projects are researched in only half-a-dozen institutes.
      ...
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