With NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft sealed inside its payload fairing, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rides smoke and flames as it rises from the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo: NASA
December 02, 2016
The cheapest trip to Mars probably won’t leave from Cape Canaveral but from a tiny Indian island called Sriharikota. The island has become the Launchpad of the Indian Space Program, that has shot more than 120 satellites into orbit until today, and at a much more competitive price than its competitors.
India competes for commercial launches with space agencies in Europe and Japan, and with private players such as Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin LLC.
“Why are people coming to us? Because they are looking for the most cost-effective, short turnaround-time launches,” says A.S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
India’s Mars Mission cost is about $74 million, or about 11 percent of the price tag for NASA’s Maven probe. By comparison, 20th Century Fox spent an estimated $108 million making “The Martian,” according to Box Office Mojo.
“In most other places, generally, the space program started as a strategic or a military program. In our program, right from the beginning, what has been looked at is how this space technology can be used for societal benefits.”, says Kumar.