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India Heading to Mars – On a Budget

February 23, 2014
Plain English Version


Artist's concept.

Artist’s concept.

India launched its Mangalayaan mission to Mars on November 13, 2013 Indian engineers stopped holding their breath on December 1, 2013 when the satellite left the orbit of the earth.

Space experts are amazed at how India did so much with so little cost. The cost of the project was $75 million. The U.S. Maven mission to Mars launched a week later. Its cost was $671 million.

It was pointed out that the space movie, “Gravity,” cost $100 million to make.

And that is not the only difference. India went from start to launch in 18 months. Maven took five years.

How did India do it? How did India show that its technology was more advanced than China’s?

The answer is that they had no choice. They did not have a lot of money or time. The next window for launching would not come until 26 months later. What India did have was a large number of trained engineers. Their wages were lower than those paid in the western countries.

They did not have time to build models and do much testing. As the director of the project said, “Since the time was so short, for the first time in the history of such a project, we scheduled tasks by the hour — not days, not weeks.” An expert added, “Could we pull it off in less than two years’ time? Frankly, I doubted it.”

They used parts already in use in technology. It is a lesson in how to do more with less.

India’s 3,000-pound Mars satellite carries five instruments. It will orbit around the planet. The instruments will measure methane gas, a marker of life on the planet.

The satellite will reach Mars in September 2014.

Source: The New York Times                                                                                                                                    February 17, 2014

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