Chandrayaan-2
The moon mission costs less than half of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ – and much less than ‘Interstellar’.

Chandrayaan-2 will embark on its voyage next Monday, and according to ISRO, the Indian spacecraft and rover would land near the lunar south pole by September 6 or 7. The 3.8-tonne complex mission will have an orbiter with eight scientific experiments, a lander with three experiments, a rover with two experiments and one passive experiment from NASA.

The cost of Chandrayaan-2 mission is Rs 978 crore, including Rs 603 crore for the orbiter, lander, rover, navigation and ground support network and Rs 375 crore for the heavy rocket – Geo-stationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) with an indigenous cryogenic engine.

Of the Rs 603 crore, K Sivan has earlier said that about 60% went to industries and universities that worked on Chandrayaan-2. “Nearly 620 organisations (500 universities and 120 companies) have pitched in their tech-might and manpower,” Sivan said. 

The cost of Chandrayaan has seen escalations. When the project was approved in 2008, was said to cost Rs 425 crore excluding the GSLV launch vehicle or the lander. The project was initially supposed to be in partnership with Russia (who were supposed to provide the lander), but in 2013, India announced that it would be going ahead without a tie-up with Russia. Russia undertook a review of the project after a failed joint mission with China. India decided to go ahead alone, and the spacecraft was reconfigured for an Indian rover and lander modules. 

In 2018, ISRO announced the cost of the mission to be Rs 800 crore – Rs 200 crore for the launcher and Rs 600 crore for the satellite. In 2018, ISRO Chairman K Sivan had said that this cost was ”almost half of what it would cost if the same mission had to be launched from a foreign launching site.”

Chandrayaan-2’s famous selling point, apart from India being the 4th country to make a moon landing, is that it costs less than a fictional film. It costs less than Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi film Interstellar, which was made on a budget of $165 million (close to Rs 1,062 crore at the time). It also costs less than half the budget of Avengers: Endgame, whose budget was estimated to be $356 million. 

The Soviet Union, USA and China are the only countries which have been able to soft-land on the Moon. India hopes to be the fourth country to do so, with ISRO having a budget close to 20 times less than NASA.

Cost-effectiveness has been a feature of many ISRO projects. "The ISRO pursues the indigenisation programme for critical components materials with industry participation to reduce the dependence on import. Indian industry is contributing significantly in the designing, manufacturing and testing of components and materials as well as sub-systems as per ISRO requirements," a scientist working with the ISRO told Outlook.

With IANS inputs