India’s ‘MOM’ cheaper than the Hollywood movie ‘Gravity’?

India’s ‘MOM’ cheaper than the Hollywood movie ‘Gravity’

The Hollywood movie Avatar’s cost was around $300 m (official $237 m). Movie gravity invested around $100m. But, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) led Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was made success in just $ 74 m. Can you believe that? Believe it or not, India has put its first satellite in the orbit of Mars. ‘Mangalyaan’, as it was called, is a Mars orbiting satellite. Despite several trivializing objections from Western allies, political banging and low budget, the reality is, with all its ‘indigenous’ technology, the mission was an overwhelming success. It is sincerely the successful attempt by a non-western nation to have made successful in its early first attempt.
            Launched on 5th November, 2013 by a launch vehicle called PSLV-C25 (Polar satellite launch vehicle), from Sriharikota, Andra Pradesh, the ‘Mangalyaan’ successfully reached the Mars orbit by several earth and space maneuvers.
Other similar missions have already been successfully completed which was launched by US, Russia and European Space Agency. The Mission of NASA called MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and volatile Evolution) which was launched on 18th November, 2013 got $ 731m investment and was successful too. Now, the dollar figure between NASA’s MAVEN and ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission is a huge difference. How come such an economical unmanned projection to Mars? Here are the “whys and the how”:
Ø  The significant reason so as how it was achieved and the credit both goes to the Indian Space Research Team and the scientists. Despite the low budget and late mission histories, the ‘need of compulsion’ drove the team to achieve the goal.
Ø  The launch vehicle of ISRO called PSLV is an old vehicle with 2 decade history. It started off the Mars mission with some modifications in communications, power and propulsion. But, the launch vehicle of NASA’s mars mission-Atlas 401 is a long term use vehicle with 24 different successful launch events with drastic modifications.
Ø  The human resource cost effectiveness of Indian space team also lowered the total figure down. An average Indian aeronautical engineer is paid around $20,000/year in comparison to his/her NASA’s counterpart with $105,000/year, which is very less.
Ø  The Indian ‘Mangalyaan’ grossly weighs 2948 lb with just 30 lb payload of equipment. On, the other hand, MAVEN spacecraft weights 5410 lb with the bulky 143 lb payload. Higher payload comes up with increased cost and heightened risk. To reduce that, more redundancies has to be incorporated that surely raises the cost.
Ø  The answer lies in the mission objectives too. Indian Mars mission is more a maneuvering and data mission to successfully put the satellite in the Mar’s orbit and send pictures but less an investigative mission. But, NASA’s mission is a long-term mission with investigative approaches in both sun and the upper Martian atmosphere. Its discovery mission to understand the effect of Sun’s ejections on Martian air which could have triggered the disappearance of most of its outer atmosphere caused it to pour more money.
Ø  India’s mission is an ‘indigenous’ effort in which the vehicle, launch, instrumentation, navigation, relay, networking, test and assembly are all conducted by ISRO and some of its affiliates. But, the MAVEN mission was controlled by four different bodies in US namely University of Colorado, University of California, NASA JPL  and Lockheed Martin Corporation  and one in France  called Centre d’ Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements. This incorporated large number of human resources compared to India’s mission and the division of work and workplace ensured the safety and reduced the risk.

But, despite all that, it is still a ‘no competition’ mission. India is among the few bodies in the world like USA, Russia and EU which are able to send their satellites to Mars. The credit goes to ISRO which is capable to achieve the goal and prove that India is no longer a nation that always indulges in home affairs. The SAARC nations can take a good advantage from the technological enhancement of India.



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