India’s Moonshot

Johnny Wentzel
Indians watching rocket launch
Courtesy of The Globe and Mail

After some unfortunate moon news from Russia earlier this week, we’re delighted to round out ENERGYminute’s impromptu Moon Week 2023 on a positive note: India has joined the elite club of lunar-exploring nations.

What happened: India’s Chandrayaan-3 moon mission reached an exciting climax on Wednesday with the successful touchdown on the lunar surface. India is only the fourth country to pull off such a feat and the first nation to land at the lunar south pole, an area of particular scientific interest.

  • The Moon’s south pole is suspected to harbour ice, which will be a critical element to sustaining long-term human missions to the Moon and beyond.

Chandrayaan-3’s lunar rover Pragyan will be on the hunt for polar ice deposits for a planned two-week excursion.

Blasting off on a budget

Perhaps most impressive about India’s happy landing was the ability to pull it off with a fraction of the budget of other space-faring nations. The entire 2023 budget of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was just $1.5 billion, which is less than seven percent of NASA’s budget for the same year.

Boasting about the mission’s tiny budget of just $75 million, ISRO chairman S. Somanath remarked that, “No one in the world can do it like we do”, which is just an incredible Bill Nye-level science flex.

  • For context, $75 million is cheaper than the budgets for both Hollywood space blockbusters Gravity and Interstellar.

The Canadian Space Agency’s budget this year was a mere $534 million CAD, so we’re not quite ready to put the first maple syrup-infused hockey puck on the moon just yet.

Zoom out: The Chandrayaan-3 landing has become a bit of a cultural phenomenon in India, and the excitement levels are being compared to the Apollo era in the US over 50 years ago. It’s expected that the success of the mission coupled with growing public interest in space exploration will cause investment into India’s private space industry to skyrocket (intended) over the next several years.

We’re looking forward to seeing where they land next, but for now, India’s having a moment and we’re here for it.