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For Space, and ISRO, Frugality Is a Tightrope Walk Not Worth Celebrating

21 Feb 2018, 13:29 UTC
For Space, and ISRO, Frugality Is a Tightrope Walk Not Worth Celebrating
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Saying “Chandrayaan 2 is cheaper than Interstellar” is pernicious because frugal engineering is not an end unto itself, especially when we seldom celebrate any other aspects of these missions.
A strap-on booster for the PSLV C11 mission, which launched Chandrayaan 1 in 2008, being unloaded at the Vehicle Assembly Building. Credit: ISRO
‘Tis the season of comparing space missions to Hollywood films again! In the last week, a Times of India article described the cost of India’s second mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan 2, expected to be launched in April this year, as being “cheaper than Hollywood film Interstellar“. A bevy of other publications have, enamoured by this spin, carried it forward in headlines of their own. The same thing happened with the Mars Orbiter Mission, launched in 2014, a technology-demonstrator that, according to many reports, cost less to execute than Hollywood’s Gravity.
In the mainstream Indian media, these comparisons are made only when reporting on the country’s space programme. They are both meaningless and, in their own way, pernicious: frugal engineering plays its part but it is not an end unto itself.
Each comparison is like saying the angular momentum of a frog is lower than the speed of ...

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