By the time you read this, India would have launched its second lunar mission. Chandrayaan-2 was scheduled to lift off from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) launch facility in Sriharikota in the wee hours of today. 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. India’s first Moon mission, launched in 2008, had detected telltale signs of water molecules. This one will explore the far side for the presence of water.

The mission adds another feather in our space agency’s cap. If it succeeds, India will become the fourth country after the former Soviet Union, the US and China to land a spacecraft on the Moon. ISRO has earned a global reputation for advanced space missions undertaken at a fraction of the cost incurred by other countries. This Moon mission will cost less than 1,000 crore, or about $145 million. That’s less than what a Hollywood movie costs. If the mission helps foster a scientific temper, encourages innovation and eventually results in discoveries of some commercial value, a small step for ISRO could turn out to be a giant leap for the rest of us.

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