Mon, Aug 16, 2004
Costs, lack of quantifiable return on investment cited as
reasons for change of heart
India may be changing
its mind to place an Indian on the moon by 2015. The cost of the
mission, as well as the perceived lack of return on investment, is
forcing authorities at the Indian national space agency to rethink
"Whatever a man can do in space, it can be done with
instrumentation, also," said G. Madhavan Nair, head of the Indian
Space Research Organization to the Associated Press. "This program
is going to be very, very expensive. So, a national debate is
required whether we have to embark on a manned mission or not."
ISRO announced last year that it planned to send a mission to
orbit the moon by 2005, and that it intended to land an astronaut
on the satellite by 2015. However, the announcement has been
strongly criticized by some members of the Indian scientific
community, who say that there is little point in spending so much
money on such a project. Their argument is that in a country where
three quarters of its population of over a billion live in poverty,
money should not be wasted on something that will bring little real
benefit to the nation.
There were also comments made that India was only trying to put
a man on the moon as a way to complete with China for the
international recognition and prestige. However, Nair maintains
that the purpose is not to compete, even though he now indicates
that the project is no longer favored at ISRO. Instrument-based
study "is less expensive, more reliable and it can be for a longer
duration," than a manned mission, he said.
The estimated costs of a manned mission to the moon were put at
over $2 billion over a period of 7 to 10 years. However, Nair said
that the plan to orbit the moon is still on track, and expects the
mission to take place in the second half of 2005.
"It will stay there for about a month. It will do some
zero-gravity experiments like metal melting and biological
experiments and so on," he said.
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