India launches its Chandrayaan-II mission in the state of Andhra Pradesh on July 22. (Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images)

One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for India

Al-Arab, London, July 27

India has very big ambitions for the exploration of space. Last week, it successfully launched a mission to the Moon to explore its southern pole, a region that has only been slightly explored. The mission, known as Chandrayaan II, is one of the most complex space missions carried out by a South Asian country. The rocket carrying the lunar exploration module was launched last week by the Indian Space Research Organization after the first attempt to launch the rocket had been postponed due to technical difficulties. But the issues were fixed within a week, after scientists worked extra hours to solve the problems that delayed the launch. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the two days as “special moments to be engraved in the annals of our glorious history.” If India succeeds in its mission, it will become the fourth country in the world after the United States, Russia and China to successfully land on the Moon. The next seven or eight weeks will be crucial to India’s mission because the Chandrayaan II rocket will have to travel from Earth’s orbit to the orbit of the Moon, where Earth’s gravity ends and the Moon’s gravity begins. Although India has done this before, it does not automatically guarantee success the second time. India has been slowly building its space program over the past two decades. It has become a leader in the launch of low-cost satellites, with the deployment of dozens for other nations, including eight for Singapore. India’s space program, initially intended to improve satellite communications and remote-sensing applications such as climate forecasting and disaster management, has grown in the last few years into an independent space exploration program. In May 2014, the Indian Space Research Organization launched an orbiter to Mars, becoming the first Asian country to reach the Red Planet after China failed. The Indian mission cost about $70 million, compared with $671 million spent by NASA for a similar mission. Therefore, this mission carries with it many concerns because it is an important stage in India’s space program. It is the most complex mission that has been carried out and will prove India’s credentials as a nation capable of exploring space. If Indian scientists succeed in completing this lunar mission, they will prove India’s reputation as a country capable of carrying out complex tasks, placing it prominently on the map of space exploration. India clearly does not want to lag behind in space exploration when the world is ready to begin building space stations. India is particularly keen to highlight its proficiency in space missions and sciences. Last year, it announced its intention to send a mission with astronauts. The prime minister of India is very keen on this and is personally interested in monitoring the progress of this program. The success of the mission to the Moon will undoubtedly ensure that India is at the forefront of the space exploration process. – Zikr al-Rahman (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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