As noted earlier, sheer expense may be causing NASA to postpone Mars visits. But the technology now exists; what if new players enter the game? No sooner asked than India is sending a probe to Mars, Mangalvaar:
If the Mars Orbiter successfully reaches the vicinity of the planet in September 2014, after 300 days’ journey into deep space, it will make India the first Asian country and the fourth in the world to reach the red planet. – Manoj Kumar Patairiya is the editor of the Indian Journal of Science Communication and co-editor of the book “Sharing Science.” (New York Times)
Part of the reason the mission is so much less expensive is that it is able to take advantage of existing deep space communications systems and navigation support from NASA. But India is becoming known for its low-cost innovations in many diverse fields, including health care, renewable energy, sanitation, mobile technology and tablet computers. Indian scientists like to share this anecdote: “Americans spent millions to develop a pen that will not leak in space, whereas Russians used a pencil!”
In past decades, an impression was formed that truly innovative research had to be expensive, and “frugal” solutions were written off as low-tech products directed at the poor, says Rajnish Tiwari, a senior researcher at the Institute of Technology and Innovation Management at Hamburg University of Technology. The Mars mission shows that frugal innovations can be high-tech and affordable at the same time.
Who knows, maybe later in the century, Singapore, Ireland, and the Czech Republic will all have craft on Mars.
Then, of course, there’ll be competition over exploration rights, as they pound the planet for signs of life. (Oh well, here’s to better space TV!)
See also: Don’t let Mars fool you. Those exoplanets teem with life!