India's moon mission is a low-cost success story, here's why

In fact, India's epic Chandrayaan-3 lunar landing was cheaper than a string of Hollywood sci-fi epics.
Chris Young
Artist's impression of the Chandrayaan-3 lander (left) and the Interstellar poster (right).
Artist's impression of the Chandrayaan-3 lander (left) and the Interstellar poster (right).

1, 2 

India successfully performed a soft touchdown near the lunar south pole on Wednesday, August 23, for its Chandrayaan-3 mission.

By doing so, it made history by becoming the first nation to land on that region of the lunar surface as well as the fourth country to ever land on the Moon.

The lunar south pole is known for its tricky terrain, making the fact that India performed its very first landing there all the more impressive.

What's more, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) achieved the impressive milestone on a relatively low budget of 6 billion rupees ($75 million). As some commenters have pointed out online, that is significantly less than the budget for the sci-fi blockbuster movie 'Interstellar'.

India's epic lunar landing cheaper than Interstellar

India and the world's leading space agencies — NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, and China's space administration CNSA — have set their sights on the lunar south pole due to the fact that it is believed to harbor vast amounts of ice water that could one day be used to sustain human habitats on the Moon.

Impressively, Chandrayaan-3's $75 million budget means it cost less than a number of Hollywood sci-fi blockbusters. Christopher Nolan's sci-fi epic 'Interstellar' cost $165 million, while 'Gravity' and 'The Martian' each cost around $100 million to make.

To put things further into perspective, NASA's Artemis I mission last year, which sent an uncrewed capsule around the Moon and back, cost approximately $4 billion.

The price of Chandrayaan-3 is similar to the cost of a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch up to a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) around Earth, which currently sits at around $67 million, according to the company's website.

In fact, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk applauded ISRO for reaching the Moon with such a low-cost mission earlier this week. When Twitter user Newsthink posted a comparison between the budgets of Chandrayaan-3 and the sci-fi epic 'Interstellar', Musk replied to that post by saying "good for India!"

UK newspaper The Independent also points out that the most expensive house in the UK went up for sale for more than the cost of Chandrayaan-3 at £200 million (approx. $171 million).

The budget for Chandrayaan-3 was also less than that of Chandrayaan-2, which cost 8 billion rupees (approx. $97 million). It's worth noting though, that while the Chandrayaan-2 lander crashed onto the lunar surface, the mission did also deploy an orbiter which is being used to transmit data for the duration of the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

What next for ISRO and Chandrayaan-3?

Shortly after the successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 was confirmed on Wednesday, India's Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi made an address via ISRO's live webcast.

In it, he highlighted the fact that India wanted to show that any nation can go to space: "India's successful moon mission is not just India's alone", he said, adding that it "belongs to all of humanity".

"It will help Moon missions by other countries in the future" and shows "we can all aspire for the Moon and beyond," he continued, also noting that India will now "look into a human flight mission as well for the future."

Yesterday, August 24, ISRO also confirmed that its Pragyan rover had rolled out of the Chandrayaan-3 Virkam lander bringing a start to the 14-day lunar mission. Pragyan and Virkam will now conduct several experiments and will also investigate the mission's landing region to look for signs of ice water.

Today, India's space agency posted on Twitter that "the Rover has successfully traversed a distance of about 8 meters" and that "all payloads on the propulsion module, lander module, and rover are performing nominally."

Stay posted for more updates on ISRO's Chandrayaan-3 mission.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board