Why does ISRO have no competitors in India

Space travel : Indian probe reaches Mars

No country has done this before: India succeeded in sending a spacecraft to Mars in the first attempt. The jubilation among the scientists of the Indian space research organization Isro in the ground station was huge on Wednesday morning. Many of the employees, reported Indian media, had not slept for days.

Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to the headquarters in Bangalore, clad in a vest as red as the planet. "It's a symbol of what we're capable of," Modi said proudly. For a moment it was forgotten that many millions of people in India live in abject poverty and that many villages do not even have roads. Modi told scientists - and the nation in front of their screens - that the Mars mission would go down as a milestone in history. "You made the impossible possible."

No new discoveries to be expected

The primary goal of the unmanned “Mangalyaan” probe (Hindi for Mars vehicle) is to improve its image. Because even the Isro employees admit that new scientific findings are not expected. Even if the probe carries instruments to study the Martian atmosphere and the surface. “The mere fact that India has developed the technology to fly to Mars and enter orbit is a tremendous achievement,” says Isro scientist Koteswara Rao.

It is an investment by the up-and-coming emerging market in the future. India already has a good reputation when it comes to transporting satellites into orbit. India's PSLV launcher has sold around 70 of them, including some from Germany. Emily Lakdawall of the Planetary Society in the USA believes that other countries will soon also be looking towards Isro if they want to send an interplanetary spacecraft off.

Space travel at a bargain price

India, of course, is not the first country to reach Mars. The USA, the then USSR and the European Union have already sent missions. Several probes orbit the planet and research robots travel on its surface. But nobody has made it so cheaply. The entire mission cost the equivalent of 57 million euros, while “Maven”, the youngest NASA probe, cost more than 500 million euros.

India's space program began in 1963 when a small rocket probe was launched from the fishing village of Thumba in Kerala. Photos show how the rocket was brought to the launch site on a bicycle. In addition to small budgets, the scientists also struggled with a ban on technology transfers to India after the country carried out a nuclear test in 1974.

The embargo meant that now all parts of the Mars probe - apart from some electronic components - were designed and manufactured in India. "This is an example of our accomplishments with which we honor our ancestors and inspire future generations," said Prime Minister Modi. That already seems to be happening: In the past few years the number of applicants at Isro has tripled, as the newspaper "Economic Times" reported.

First Asian nation to reach Mars

There was particular joy on the subcontinent that the Mars flight succeeded in front of the Asian competitors China and Japan. And new goals are set. "Nasa and Isro are currently talking about how they can coordinate their research on Mars," says Rao. In 2016 or 2017, an Indian vehicle is supposed to be on the moon. And if that succeeds, a landing attempt on Mars could follow in 2018.

Ajay Lele, author of a book on India's Mars missions and analyst at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis in New Delhi, even speaks of a global effort to colonize Mars. “The idea of ​​flying to Mars is ripe. And any success in this area has the potential to transform a rising power like India into a great power. " (dpa)

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