What is the moon mission of India

India’s moon travelers suffer a setback - but they don’t think about giving up

Despite the unsuccessful landing of «Vikram», India is planning further space missions. The nationalist government is interested in more than “just” scientific progress.

It should have been a ceremony at the Bengaluru space center. But after anxious minutes shortly before landing, it became clear on Saturday night that something had gone wrong with the "Chandrayaan-2" mission. There were still two kilometers between the unmanned “Vikram” landing module and the surface of the moon when contact with the control center was lost. On television you could see Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking the defunct head of the space agency Isro comfortingly in his arms. Modi later told the nation that India was now even more determined to reach the moon.

Water and ambitions for power

Due to the lack of an atmosphere on the moon, the controlled braking of a probe is considered to be highly complex. So far, only the USA, the Soviet Union and China have managed a so-called soft landing on the moon. In April 2019, a space probe from an Israeli company crashed while attempting to land. At first it was not clear whether «Vikram», which charged a robot to explore the surface of the moon, suffered a similar fate.

India's most recent space adventure began successfully on July 22nd with the launch of a 640-ton launcher. Despite the disappointment about the apparently failed landing maneuver, scientists speak of a partial success of the mission. So the orbiter flies around the moon and sends images to earth. India's moon travelers had hoped that the robot on the less explored south side of the moon could collect data on minerals, chemical composition and possible water resources.

Of course, India's space program does not only serve scientific needs. It strengthens the self-confidence of a nation that is struggling for recognition and status in the competition between the great powers. The giant Asian empire underpinned its claim in space in March 2019, a few weeks before the elections: India shot down its own satellite and successfully tested an anti-satellite missile with it. Only the USA, Russia and China had previously achieved this. His country is now part of the super league of space powers, Modi rejoiced at the time. By the 75th anniversary of independence in 2022, the nuclear power wants to put a person into space. A mission to Venus and their own space station are also on the researchers' wish list.

Cheaper than a Hollywood movie

Delhi's ambitions in space are also economically justified. The emerging country has been operating a commercial satellite program since the 1960s. Last year, a rocket transported over 30 satellites into space, around half of them for foreign clients, which India lures with comparatively low prices. The second Indian mission to the moon cost 142 million dollars and thus only half of the American science fiction film "Avengers: Endgame". The first mission in 2008 brought a probe into orbit the moon and detected water molecules on the earth's satellite.

The fundamental question of whether a developing country with millions of children suffering from malnutrition and lacking money for hygiene and basic health care should even compete in space is only marginally discussed in India. Government officials oppose that space research is of direct benefit to the poorest sections of the population. The use of weather satellites, which warned farmers of storms at an early stage, is mentioned.