India’s boom, Russia’s crunch: how money is shaping a new space race | Space


FILE PHOTO: A picture taken from the camera of the lunar landing spacecraft Luna-25 shows the Zeeman crater located on the far side of the moon, August 17, 2023. Roscosmos/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT./File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

BENGALURU/WASHINGTON, Aug 22 (Reuters) – The space race India aims to win this week by landing first on the moon’s south pole is about science, the politics of national prestige and a new frontier: money.

India’s Chandrayaan-3 is heading for a landing on the lunar south pole on Wednesday. If it succeeds, analysts and executives expect an immediate boost for the South Asian nation’s nascent space industry.

Russia’s Luna-25, which launched less than two weeks ago, had been on track to get there first – before the lander crashed from orbit, possibly taking with it the funding for a successor mission, analysts say.

The seemingly sudden competition to get to a previously unexplored region of the moon recalls the space race of the 1960s, when the United States and the Soviet Union competed.

But now space is a business, and the moon’s south pole is a prize because of the water ice there that planners expect could support a future lunar colony, mining operations and eventual missions to Mars.

With a push by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has privatised space launches and is looking to open the sector to foreign investment as it targets a five-fold increase in its share of the global launch market within the next decade.

If Chandrayaan-3 succeeds, analysts expect India’s space sector to capitalise on a reputation for cost-competitive engineering. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had a budget of around just $74 million for the mission.

NASA, by comparison, is on track to spend roughly $93 billion on its Artemis moon programme through 2025, the U.S. space agency’s inspector general has estimated.

“The moment this mission is successful, it raises the…

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