India will try its hand at interplanetary exploration on Tuesday as the country launches its first unmanned Mars orbiter, the Mangalyaan. If successful, India will be the fourth nation to reach Mars, and they’re doing it for the relatively inexpensive — at least by America standards — price of $72 million.
“It’s there for scientific purposes, but it’s also there for morale — and for the Indians to say to China, ‘Hey, we can do it. Doesn’t look like you can,'” says the BBC’s Rahul Tandon, reporting from Calcutta.
But the mission isn’t without controversy.
“We talk a lot about the next century being the one for the Chinese and the Indians, and the space race, I think, is an important part of that,” Tandon says. “But there are many people here in India who say, in a country with such high levels of malnutrition, with such poor levels of infrastructure — half the population not having access to toilets — should India really be involved in such a race at all?”
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