Watch India's Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Launch Into The History Books
The Indian space agency successfully launched its Mangalyaan Mars orbiter (MOM) today, the first step to becoming the fourth space agency to reach Mars. MOM will now embark on a 300 day journey to the Red Planet and once it arrives the orbiter will commence scientific operations with a primary goal being the detection of Methane within the planet's atmosphere. While the Mars Curiosity Rover was unable to detect the gas, it is hoped that MOM's methane sensors will be able to succeed where the hi-tech rover failed.
The successful launch of an Indian Mars orbiter marks the latest milestone in what is an increasing shift of space superiority to Asia. India finds itself in the middle of a new age space race with its Asian counterparts China, Japan, and South Korea, but a successful mission to Mars will give them bragging rights with China and Japan's attempts at reaching the Red Planet ending in failure.
Another impressive fact about the MOM mission was its cost. At $72 million, MOM rings up a bill well below that of many other major launch missions, although this is not a figure low enough for the project to escape controversy. India, despite experiencing a burgeoning economy in recent years, still possesses a significant wealth gap with vast swathes of its population residing below the poverty line. This fact has caused for many to call for a better use of India's funds and certainly raises some important questions.
Where should space exploration lie in a growing, but burdened economy's priorities?