India's MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) has many facets and certainly not just any other space exploration task being carried out by the country's premier space agency ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization). First of all this is the cheapest inter planetary mission ever carried out by any country in the world worth only $74mn and with this, just for the icing on the cake, India's became the first country to successfully placing the orbiter into Mars orbit in its maiden flight in roughly 300 days travelling approximately 67 crore kms in deep space guided by the NASA's tacking and guidance system. This is certainly not a mean achievement by any means where the world leaders in space exploration like USA, Russia, Japan, many European countries failed to achieve the feat in their first attempt. This calls for a toast to our space scientists who worked ardently and relentlessly to make this happen.
The mission aims to study the Martian surface, atmosphere and mineralogy to assess the possibility of life on the planet. However, the event does have its share of cynicism regarding the usefulness of the mission in Indian context. Alluding the larger picture, most argue about the wastage being done in launching such space programs where the money could however be utilized to alleviate socio-economic ills of the country. Scientists must rather invest their energy in inventing innovative products to solve impending economic needs of the country and space budget should be effectively utilized by the ISRO to meet communication needs and bring down Digital-Divide in the country. Another section of people are of the view that ISRO must prioritize GSLV mission and address its shortcomings thereto, and some slammed the event as a mere rat race to space with the competitor countries like China.
Establishing ISRO as a cost effective Space agency
Space aficionados see it as an opportunity to influence country's 'would-be' & existing scientists to take up space research in the future and explore the uncharted path of the unknown and discover new possibilities in the future invoking larger scientific temper and quotient in the country's young science community. The mission could check the drain of intellectual wealth of the country by igniting feeling of nationalism and sense of pride among young scientists of the country. Economists, Bureaucrats and foreign relations experts viewed the feat not only as scientific but commercial too. This 'cheapest' mission would project ISRO as one of the cost-effective space agency throughout the globe and make the developing & third world countries to look to India in their scientific pursuits regarding building satellites, launching space missions in the future thereby benefitting country with valuable foreign exchange and help wielding 'soft-power' in several international bilateral/multilateral forums.
Igniting Scientific Temper
The recent winning of Fields' Award (considered Nobel Prize of Mathematics) by Manjul Bhargava, an Indian born mathematician, and ISRO's MOM success would definitely go a long way in igniting young scientific minds to pursue science with a passion to do the undoable. Both the feats have showed the world that Indians have ventured into the unexplored territories of the universe and achieved the impossible with persistent hard work, determination and a passion to succeed. More students would be inspired by such achievements and aspire to take the route of science and solve country's present problems in a scientific manner.
In the end, the mission does have some goodies to offer costing just Rs.7/km to reach the other planet. The mission also highlights the impeccable features like accurate deep space navigation and communication expertise, built-in-autonomy feature enabling spacecraft to take decisions in the time of distress among others. All these are the manifestation of the competency of our scientific community in space exploration and aspirations to achieve even larger success in the days to come.