The Mars Orbiter Mission’s (MOM) entry into Mars’ orbit is an amazing feat, with a price tag of only $75 million. The Indian Space Research Organisation (IRSO) has now done something that only NASA, the European Space Agency and Russia have managed to accomplish, and that too in their first attempt. Those in Pakistan that are drawing comparisons to India’s achievement, or are finding ways to dismiss this as frivolous expenditure should remember that there is no longer a comparison to be drawn. While not fully developed, India is well on its way to become a global powerhouse, and this latest milestone is meeting China’s challenge of a 21st century space race head on. Pakistan’s own scientific input to the global community has been negligible at best.

The IRSO has become the first Asian space organisation to send a mission to Mars, and has done it relatively economically, where Russia, the US and Europe have spent billions to sustain their own space programs. And for those who dismiss scientific research and space exploration as unnecessary need to be reminded that if it weren’t for India’s weather satellites last year, the death toll of cyclone Phailin could have been much higher. India’s fishermen and farmers also have a lot to thank IRSO for, because their remote sensing technology helps both immensely. Critics from the first world argue that a developing nation cannot afford such expenses, especially when it is being funded by the state, because first-world space programs are privately funded. India should have spent this money on eliminating poverty, with over 400 million people below the poverty line, many argue.

But a per capita calculation of the budget against the total reveals that the trip to Mars only cost $.60 to each Indian citizen, which is roughly Rs. 60 in Pakistani currency. Hence, before expressing feelings of jealousy towards our neighbour, let us be happy for their magnificent accomplishment, and let them revel in what surely is the entry of humanity into uncharted territory, with the possibilities of inexpensive space travel a more realistic prospect than ever before.