Low-cost moon mission puts India among lunar pioneers

Photo: AFP

India will step up the international space race on Monday when it launches a low-cost mission to become only the fourth country to land a probe on the moon.

Just five days before the 50th anniversary of man's first lunar landing, Chandrayaan-2 - or Moon Chariot 2 - will blast off from a tropical island off Andhra Pradesh state after a decade-long build-up.

The mission will also highlight how far space travel has advanced since Neil Armstrong's giant leap for mankind during the Apollo 11 mission.

India has spent about $140 million to get Chandrayaan-2 ready for the 384,400 kilometres (around 240,000 miles) trip from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre to the scheduled landing on the lunar South Pole on September 6.

The United States spent about $25 billion - the equivalent of more than $100 billion in current prices - on 15 Apollo missions, including the six that put Armstrong and other astronauts on the moon.

China landed its Chang'e 4 lunar craft in January, and spent $8.4 billion on its entire space programme in 2017, according to international Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development figures.

And Russia - the first country to land an unmanned moon rocket in 1966 - spent more than $20 billion at today's values on lunar missions in the 1960s and 70s.

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