By Mary Mullaj
While Russia was the first in space with its successful orbital launch of Sputnik, the American craft Apollo was the first to make it to the moon, providing Neil Armstrong with the opportunity to be the first to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969. The series of Soviet and American space expeditions fed the ongoing rivalry between the two countries. Even up until last week, the only countries that had reached their goal of lunar exploration were the US, Russia, Japan, and China. Last week, however, India joined this exclusive club. Before beginning this project, India has focused on more practical projects, such as weather warning and communications systems. The recently launched unmanned probe, named Chandrayaan-1 (“mooncraft” in Sanscrit), will create a high-resolution topographical map of the moon as well as an image of the minerals beneath the surface. The two-year mission will share data with other space programs, including NASA.The mission took place at a moment when the Indian economy, like many world economies, is in a downturn. While the country struggles with frozen credit markets and extreme inflation, politicians insist that the country will be able to cope as well as afford lunar missions of this scale.
The recent lunar launch took place less than a month after China’s first space walk using the craft Chang’e. The proximity of the two events certainly suggests a feeling of competition between the two countries. The mission could be part of India’s plan to assume a more prominent global role, in direct competition with countries such as China. What is shaping up to be the new space race could mirror the rivalrous economies of the participating countries. Silly them. Everyone knows that the moon belongs to America.