NEW DELHI: A triumphant lunar touchdown at the Moon’s southern pole on August 23 promises not only to elevate India’s global prestige but also to propel the nation’s burgeoning space sector to unprecedented heights.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is actively seeking to open up its space industry to foreign investments, aiming to quintuple its share of the worldwide launch market within the next ten years.
Presently valued at approximately $8 billion, India’s space sector has exhibited consistent annual growth of about 4% over the past few years, outpacing the global average of 2%. Analysts predict that India’s space economy could reach a staggering $40 billion by 2040. A successful mission like Chandrayaan-3 could expedite this trajectory, as more nations are expected to seek India’s launch services for their satellites.
Should Chandrayaan-3 achieve its objectives, industry analysts anticipate that India’s space sector will capitalize on its reputation for cost-effective engineering. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) conducted the mission with a budget of a mere $74 million, a stark contrast to NASA’s anticipated expenditure of approximately $93 billion on its Artemis moon program through 2025.
As Ajey Lele, a consultant at New Delhi’s Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, aptly put it, “The moment this mission is successful, it raises the profile of everyone associated with it.”
India is actively looking to emulate NASA’s strategy of inviting private investment into the space sector. Elon Musk’s SpaceX, for example, is developing the Starship rocket for satellite launches and lunar missions, backed by a $3-billion contract with NASA. Beyond this contract, SpaceX plans to invest roughly $2 billion into Starship this year.
On the international stage, U.S. space companies like Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines are developing lunar landers slated for deployment at the Moon’s southern pole by the end of the year or in 2024. Furthermore, enterprises such as Axiom Space and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are pioneering privately funded successors to the International Space Station.
This impending lunar success signifies India’s ascent in the new space race. Joining the ranks of the United States, Russia, and China, India will become the fourth nation to achieve a soft landing on the Moon. Significantly, India will be the first to reach the lunar south pole.
This feat was hotly contested, with Russia vying against India, China, and the United States—all of which harbor advanced lunar ambitions—for the honor of landing at the Moon’s southern pole. This region holds special significance for scientists due to the presence of water ice, which could play a pivotal role in future human exploration missions.
The global appetite for lunar exploration is evident in the plans of at least ten other lunar missions scheduled between now and 2025, featuring the United States, Israel, China, and Japan. Notably, a collaborative mission involving India is also on the horizon. These missions collectively represent a renewed global interest in returning to the Moon and establishing a more enduring presence there.