Home >Opinion >Quick Edit >Opinion | ISRO’s Moonwalk

In the wee hours on Monday, India will launch its second lunar mission. Chandrayaan-2 will lift off from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s launch facility in Sriharikota. The mission will deploy an orbiter around the moon, softly set down a lander near its south pole, and then roll out a lunar rover to collect data. India’s first moon mission, launched in 2008, had detected telltale signs of water molecules. This one will explore the possibility of water’s presence on the far side.

The mission adds yet another feather in our space agency’s cap. To put the goal in context, if the venture succeeds, India would become only the fourth country after the former Soviet Union, US and China to land a spacecraft on the moon. Even a technologically-advanced country like Israel failed in carrying out a Moon landing earlier this year. India’s mission aims to land on the so-called “dark side" of the Moon, which gets very little sunlight that is essential for solar-powered instruments. Other missions have mostly landed near the Moon’s equator.

ISRO has earned a global reputation for advanced space missions undertaken at a fraction of the cost incurred by other countries. This Moon mission is no different. It will cost less than 1,000 crore, or about $145 million. That’s perhaps less than what it costs to make a Hollywood movie. Some argue that this money could be better spent on the poor. But the two objectives are independent of each other. Our space research must not slow. It would help foster a scientific temper in the country, encourage innovation and perhaps result in discoveries that could be of immense commercial value in time to come. A small step for ISRO could turn out to be a giant leap for the rest of us.

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