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India hopes to reap dividends from Space Mission
After an aborted attempt last week, India has successfully launched a rocket into space in an attempt to land a rover on the moon. It's the country’s most ambitious mission yet in the effort to establish itself as a low-cost space power.
The success of Chandrayaan-2, estimated to cost 130 million euros, is expected to enhance India's prestige as an advanced space faring nation.
It is not the first time that India has grabbed global attention. In 2014, it made history by becoming the first Asian nation to reach Mars.
In 2017, it launched a record 104 satellites in one blast-off.
Commercial space spin-offs
Earlier this year, India shot down one of its own satellites to demonstrate its anti-satellite weapon capabilities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a public announcement of the event and hailed India’s arrival as a space power.
“We have carried out low-cost satellite launches for foreign commercial and government players as well as national programmes including missions to the Moon and Mars,” says Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K. Sivan.
India's lunar mission comes at a time when the world once again appears to be in a race to go to the moon, with countries like the US and Russia revealing plans to launch complex exploratory missions.
Many believe there's a new race for space-related power and prestige in Asia nowadays, particularly between India and China, which also boasts a robust multibillion-dollar space program.
Becoming a space faring nation has also translated into tangible economic benefits over the years especially in the business of satellite launches. India has already launched many satellites on behalf of several other countries, earning millions of dollars in revenue.
The Indian government has increased the annual budget for its space activities by over 15 percent this year to 1.6 billion euros.
Early this month, in a major boost to India's space research sector, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that ISRO will have a new commercial arm, New Space India Limited (NSIL), to help the Indian space agency commercialise its launch vehicle and other state of the art technologies in the global space market.
NSIL will also launch satellites with the help of small satellites launch vehicles (SSLV). This would be the first time ISRO will have a dedicated small launch vehicle meant for the small satellite markets in the global space market.
Most experts say the geo-strategic stakes are small but India's low-cost model could win commercial satellite and orbiting deals.
"ISRO's space program should not be looked at in isolation, because India's growth has happened essentially because of the country's investment in technology," Ajey Lele, senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses told RFI.
"It will allow various innovations, it will allow various spinoff technologies to emerge. So over a period of time, this programme will become cost-effective," the expert underlined.
Poverty: the final frontier?
Critics often question why India spends vast sums on space exploration, when millions in the country still suffer from poverty and malnutrition. But supporters say India has benefited technologically, educationally and economically from space research.
Prime Minister Modi has promised to send an Indian national into space by 2022, when the country will celebrate the 75th anniversary of its independence from British colonial rule.
ISRO is also preparing to launch a solar mission to study the sun's properties.