17

The only gain I can think of for going to Mars is that it will bring glory based on the achievement.

Are there any tangible benefits for India going to Mars with respect to common people?

Note: Remember the question is about now(with respect to the past). We have attained considerable understanding on different effects of pressure, temperature etc. on the elements and how it behaves(and how useful it can be!). The only thing extraordinary about Mars(compared to earth), is the presence of radiation, high solar flares etc. which I suppose can be done on moon itself.

5
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JJJ
    Sep 29, 2021 at 17:21
  • Could you explain what "diverting its resources" mean? Do you mean reappropriation of budget? Please add some citation or details. Oct 4, 2021 at 14:25
  • @SeverusSnape The same issue arises in the US. People vastly overestimate how much money goes to NASA, and are surprised to learn that it's about half a percent of the federal budget. With India, it's about 1/6 of one percent of India's Union budget that goes toward space exploration. There is no diversion. Oct 5, 2021 at 3:52
  • @DavidHammen The title of the question needs to be changed then, I believe. Oct 5, 2021 at 6:00
  • Majority of here don't understand that space technology helps burgeon so many different types technologies helping full time jobs, and engineering & technological advancement. U.K mocked India about space program and next year India earned money from U.K by sending their satellite in space.
    – Ubi.B
    Oct 27, 2021 at 8:03

9 Answers 9

72

Are there any tangible benefits for India going to Mars with respect to common people?

Rhetorical question: Are there any tangible benefits for India maintaining the Taj Majal with respect to the common people? Bulldoze it down and sell the land to developers. That's a bit over the top as the Taj Mahal is definitely a plus to the Indian economy. But what about the plethora of less-visited historical sites in India that are owned and maintained by the government of India, at a loss? A purely utilitarian perspective would say it's best to bulldoze them down and sell the land to developers.

A purely utilitarian perspective would also say it's best to close India's national parks, kill all the lions and tigers that live in those parks, and either kill or capture the wild elephants that live in those parks and occasionally destroy farmers' crops. That would allow India to open the land up for farming. As an added plus, all of those the lion skins, tiger skins, and elephant tusks could be sold on the black market for a rather hefty fee. Shutting down India's national park system is a win-win scenario from a purely utilitarian perspective.

A purely utilitarian point of view robs everyone, including the "common people" of a huge amount of uncountable yet very important value.

That said, there are many utilitarian values in India continuing its space program. One is "soft diplomacy". That India can launch vehicles into space, including to Mars, tells the rest of the world that India is a technologically advanced nation. It tells nations that are friendly with India that investing in India is a good idea. It tells nations that are not as friendly with India that starting a war with India might not be a good idea. War is a type of "hard diplomacy", something any sane country wants to avoid.

Another reason is that India's space program is aspirational, including to the common people of India. India has a huge number of historical sites worthy of visiting. These historical sites tell the world, including the people of India, that India used to be great. That India can send vehicles to Mars tells the world, and the people of India, that India still is great.

Yet another is that having a vibrant space industry motivates young people to pursue an education in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. A few of those motivated young people will actually get jobs in India's space industry. Many will not. A few will create high tech startups. Many others will work for those startups, or for other high tech companies in India. Kids around the world dream of being astronauts. Hardly any kids around the world dream of being help desk employees.

17
  • 19
    @SomOneElse “maintaining ecology is our duty” how do you know? Is traveling to Mars our duty? Why / why not?
    – Tim
    Sep 27, 2021 at 17:59
  • 8
    @SomOneElse profitable moon mining is not happening anytime soon. The only reason you would mine the moon at this point is to use those resources in situ (particularly water and resources that can be used to build settlements). I don't know of any private firms that have anything beyond vague asperations at commercial mining of the moon or nearby asteroids. You need huge advancements in robotic and other tech before such asperations could be made reality, along with utterly massive up front costs before you see any sort of ROI.
    – eps
    Sep 27, 2021 at 20:52
  • 6
    @SomOne Else: But the "rare earth" elements are misnamed. They are not particularly rare. There are many deposits on Earth that could be mined FAR more cheaply than on the moon. The main reason most of them aren't currently being worked is that China can supply the demand at a lower price.
    – jamesqf
    Sep 28, 2021 at 4:34
  • 6
    Not even from a purely utilitarian perspective would it be optimal to perform the hypothetical actions you describe, unless perhaps utility is (foolishly) defined in GDP (growth) for the next five years.
    – gerrit
    Sep 28, 2021 at 10:13
  • 4
    @DavidHammen To you :) I understand the point you are trying to make with your paragraphs about purely utilitarian views, but as written I think they do a disservice to utilitarianism.
    – gerrit
    Sep 28, 2021 at 12:18
27

Firstly "glory" is not nothing. When the Indian Cricket team beat England, people are happy, and being happy is good. That joy is a tangible benefit for people. Modi says

When our cricket team wins a tournament and returns, the entire country rejoices but this achievement is a thousand times greater,

There are tangible benefits in the development of a skilled group of people, who will go on to teach advance technical skills to the next generation. Modi says:

We are close to Vivekananda’s dream of making India the Vishwa Guru (teacher of the world)

The costs, according to Modi are not so great:

Hollywood movies cost more than what this mission cost us.

So to summarise, according to Modi, the benefits are "glory" and the happiness that brings in the short term. And "transferable skills" in the longer term.

16
  • 23
    Not sure about India in particular, but space affairs are impressively popular among diverse population groups all over the world. Only on this basis alone, space can compete with popular sports, especially considering the outcome vs the money invested. World-popular sports (e.g. soccer) get multi-billion investments (from governments, private investors aside!) that any space industry can only dream of.
    – fraxinus
    Sep 27, 2021 at 13:11
  • 8
    But the other is "either made it or not" You can say the exact same thing about cricket: your team either won or not. And most people will only forget it later on. Why?Because it doesn't affect them any more unlike cricket which can b cherished: why can't people cherish space exploration? Americans still brag about landing on the moon, even though it happened decades ago.
    – alexgbelov
    Sep 27, 2021 at 14:53
  • 6
    Why do you believe that space exploration is only exciting for scientists and young ones? Look at the popularity of franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek and Doctor Who, or individual movies like The Martian, Apollo 13, or 2001: A Space Odyssey. And those are just scratching the surface.
    – alexgbelov
    Sep 27, 2021 at 21:27
  • 12
    Well, I personally do not give a damn about sport (whoopee, a bunch of millionaires play with a ball) but the space programme means a lot to me.
    – RedSonja
    Sep 28, 2021 at 6:32
  • 5
    Blockbuster films or TV-series about space are in fact more popular than the ones about sports. Not sure what to conclude from that...?
    – gerrit
    Sep 28, 2021 at 10:18
26

@JamesK and @DavidHammen answers are pretty good, but there is still another important aspect:

Space technology and military technology are pretty much interconnected.

By developing a space industry, a country can develop high-end rocketry and other military-important technology:

  • for less money (like, say, 100x less without the military/secrecy/etc bonus)
  • on pretty much market grounds (competition is good for everyone)
  • without annoying their own pacifists (up to and including high-profile experts refusing to work on military projects).
  • without annoying the hell out of their neighbouring countries

(Say to China that India develops ICBMs and look for the diplomatic fireworks. Say to China that India wants to land on Mars - well, China will think about ICBMs as well, but will just say "we already did, good luck getting there sec... oh well, fourth".)

9
  • 14
    @SomOne Else: It's not that Mars is useful, it's that the technology used to get there can be used for other things. A rocket that can accurately launch a probe to Mars can also drop a nuclear weapon on China's Central Committee headquarters.
    – jamesqf
    Sep 27, 2021 at 16:53
  • 12
    @SomOneElse you are thinking too narrowly. The Manhattan project was built by highly trained scientists and physicists, many of whom were often working on completely unrelated problems before the war happened. Indeed even after the war the DOD gave out tons of cash to scientists and didn't really give a hoot what they spent it on. They figured at least some of it would produce something they could use and meanwhile they would have lots of skilled people around. A rocket scientist is a valuable commodity to the military regardless of what they are working on currently
    – eps
    Sep 27, 2021 at 20:57
  • 5
    @SomOneElse The technologies needed to launch a vehicle into space and to get to Mars are dual use technologies. Other than where they look and focal length, there's not much of a difference between NASA's space telescopes and DoD's spy satellites. There's not much of a difference between making a space vehicle land on the Moon (or Mars) versus making a space vehicle (aka a weapon) go up into space only to come down and explode just before landing on enemy territory. There is a lot of crossover between military and civilian uses of space technologies. Sep 27, 2021 at 22:52
  • 5
    @eps: And various governments still give a good deal of money to scientists, without knowing whether any particular one would produce something of much value. For instance, a few scientists were working on mRNA long before anyone suspected it would be key to creating vaccines against the COVID-19 virus.
    – jamesqf
    Sep 28, 2021 at 4:37
  • 2
    This answer is (mostly) true, even if the fact 100 is hyperbole. Additional evidence: many satellites are built by the same companies that build (high tech) weapons. Thales is a prominent European example.
    – gerrit
    Sep 28, 2021 at 10:21
16

Space programs are often maligned for being a "waste of money that could go to the benefit of the common people." These critiques, as you seem to suspect, fail to account for the meaningful benefits that such programs produce for ordinary people. The single largest of which is:

TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER

Technology transfer refers to a process by which technological development occurs in one context (usually public works, academic, or defense contexts), but has applications in another (usually private sector) context and so that technology is licensed out to users in that second context. This brings revenues in, but more importantly spreads a given technology broadly into the society such that members of that society may begin to realize benefits.

NASA, for example claims credit for having developed lightweight breathing apparatuses (originally for space suits) which are now used by firefighters, thereby reducing inhalation injuries associated with protecting the public from fires; structural improvements in school bus design using materials engineering knowledge that originated from spacecraft design; surgical robotics technology that arose out of teleoperational robotics for space applications; food safety protocols that have cut Salmonella cases in half since their implementation; and so on.

Trips to Mars are major technological undertakings that require tremendous capacity development in a number of areas. All of those efforts have network externalities for society at large. Could those technologies be developed by other means? Sure. But having a specific, bold goal to focus efforts is an exceptionally good way to spur momentum. Moreover, the costs of these programs are vanishingly small compared to the 'alternative uses for the money' most often proposed.

The Mars Orbiter Mission 2 probe has an estimated mission cost of $73M. That's a lot of money to a person, but it's pocket change to a government. In the United States you'd hear "Why don't we use that money to feed the hungry?"

The SNAP program, one of the US' programs aimed at doing just that, has an annual budget of $79.2B - More than 1000x times the cost of the Indian Mars mission, and (for the sake of an apples-to-apples comparison) three times the cost of the entire NASA budget for the same year. Given the law of diminishing returns, it becomes questionable to assume that diverting those funds to other programs would even get you much in the way of benefit.

All of these factors are part of what public officials weigh when they make decisions to spend public dollars on various programs - including the space programs.

tl;dr - Yes, there are many benefits to ordinary people that result from things like this Mars mission. We don't yet know what they will be, but historically they have tended to be the advancement or refinement of new technologies that meaningfully improve lives.

P.S. A crewed mission to Mars will require us to develop water recycling, and air-cleaning technology that will be pivotal in reversing the damage from climate change and other industrial-pollution-sourced ecological disasters. The sooner we can get boots on the ground on Mars, the sooner we've unlocked the potential to repair our home planet.

8
  • 1
    Are you sure about the scalability of water recycling and air cleaning from a space ship to an entire planet? Biosphere 2 has already figured those out; how did that help reverse climate change damage? Sep 27, 2021 at 21:01
  • 1
    @DanDascalescu Biosphere's claims of being 100% sealed, and able to fully recycle air/water are questioned by more than one source. (Really, the whole biosphere project, while admirable in intention, was kind of a dumpster fire.) There's no faking it when it comes to boots-on-Mars, though. That said, a large amount of knowledge was gained as a result of Biosphere, and our world would be a lot worse off for not having had it. Sep 27, 2021 at 21:06
  • 2
    "TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER" is more like a "happened to be a gain", not intended so one cannot rely on it completely. And I can say that these can be individually developed but of course the part that it aids both is indeed a gain. Sep 28, 2021 at 3:39
  • 6
    @SomOneElse: "Technology Transfer" is commonly seen, so common that you can reasonably expect it. What you can't expect is a _ specific_ technology transfer, e.g. the predicted water recycling technology. A Mars colony may stumble on a convenient approach using the freely available vacuum, making is entirely unusable down here.
    – MSalters
    Sep 28, 2021 at 10:36
  • @MSalters what I said was in response to his answer(which tends to benefit earth), of course water recycle tech developed for mars can be used there. Sep 28, 2021 at 10:45
6

What's the use trying to find a sea passage to the west? We already have working trade routes to Asia.

What if the Spanish had said that to Columbus? Heck, what if the Portuguese had said that to their sailors who wants to see if they could round Africa and get to Asia by sea at all?

What if the Soviets and Americans had decided that space was too expensive and we don't need satellites?

What if people'd decided that leaving their African home grounds to search for greener pastures to the north was too risky?

Human beings are explorers by nature. It's got us where we are today and hopefully it will get us a lot further than that. If we don't invest in looking forward, beyond our current horizone, we stagnate and will eventually (and that's sooner rather than later probably) disappear.

India is suffering from severe population pressure. If they decide to divert resources for possibly sending those people to colonise Mars (for example) rather than invading say Pakistan, that's a good thing.

5
  • 6
    I really don't think population pressure is a relevant point here. They're not going to colonise Mars with 200 million people.
    – gerrit
    Sep 28, 2021 at 10:11
  • The population pressure releif can happen by different routes and the space technology can help not exactly by sending enough people to Mars.
    – fraxinus
    Sep 28, 2021 at 14:36
  • 2
    To even reduce the population by 0.1% would require ~150,000 launches of starship, nevermind the infrastructure required to house that many people on mars is decades if not centuries away at this point. It would be orders of magnitude cheaper to do, well, just about anything else if you are worried about overpopulation.
    – eps
    Sep 28, 2021 at 17:51
  • 2
    Fun fact: just to keep Indias population steady (0 growth) over the next 15 years you would have to launch on the order of 3,000 starships per day!
    – eps
    Sep 28, 2021 at 17:57
  • While I don't think India is going to offload its population to Mars, let's keep into perspective that 3,000 starships a day is a perfectly achievable goal if there was sufficient desire. For context, in 2019 flight radar tracked over 100,000 commercial flights a day (flightradar24.com/data/statistics). Clearly, there are significant challenges, but nothing humanity couldn't overcome.
    – NPSF3000
    Sep 28, 2021 at 20:04
3

As an addition to the various good existing answers.

India's technical capabilities relative to Pakistan and China are seen to be of major importance. I'll not comment on why here as it rapidly diverges into politic and politics by other means.

Pakistan has launched a number of satellites using Chinese launch vehicles from within China. It has conducted no satellite launches from within Pakistan or using Pakistan developed launch vehicles.

India was the first nation to achieve Mars orbit on its first attempt with its MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) spacecraft - ESA, NASA and the then USSR failing to do so. China subsequently landed and deployed its Zhurong rover.

Demonstration of Mars mission capabilities has implications far beyond the technical.

_______________________________

Some persepctive of motovations can be gained from comments on the first Indian interplanetary mission.

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan ("Mars-craft", from mangala, "Mars" and yāna, "craft, vehicle"), is a space probe orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. It was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
It is India's first interplanetary mission.

The mission is a "technology demonstrator" project to develop the
technologies for designing, planning, management, and operations of
an interplanetary mission. It carries five scientific instruments.

From Wikipedia

0
1

There are immediate and short term gains, mostly political image. Everyone thinks about ICBMs and the mighty power of the US, but let's think about the Soviet Union.

They were the first in sending a man into space, but the resources spent there were diverted from other projects and the country ended up in the 1970s buying wheat from the US to avoid famine (with some "funny" aspects regarding the deal).

However, not so many common people of Soviet Union were fleeing the country (partially because it was difficult, mostly because they did not want to). A large number escaped Russia in the 1990s, when the system collapsed and the general thought "we are a mighty country with technology and culture and industry" was not enough to make up for the "we are a country with empty stomach".

It may look extremely difficult, but the economic impact of a space program can be evaluated. Unfortunately it takes 2,670 pages to evaluate just the NASA fiscal plan for the year 2019:

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/nasa_economic_impact_study.pdf

My answer in short: space exploration is a great way to kick the popularity of the current political elite. It has the long-term effect of enlarging the divide between the middle/high class and the lower class, and it can be successful in the long term if the country gains so much in terms of power projections that the government can make up for the lower class needs. See the US; their dominance on the energy market worldwide and their costly subsidization of the agricultural system (as well as cheap and up to yesterday kind of abundant energy to its citizens).

15
  • 3
    Soviet society never gained much economic benefit out of their space programs because the space-related technology was never allowed to transfer into the civilian life. Outside of their poster projects it was military, military, military. It was not the space projects that bankrupted them (even with Buran being somewhat over the top). It was overall military overspending and the total management failure that they didn't survive.
    – fraxinus
    Sep 28, 2021 at 7:59
  • In my answer, please do not focus too much on Soviet Union. Even the US could have spent the space exploration money to build a network of free public hospitals + doctors and nurses and associated r&d in medicine and health, saving thousands of lives and probably discovering a couple of things or two on miniaturization of electronics and tools, instead of sending a team to the Moon.
    – EarlGrey
    Sep 28, 2021 at 13:56
  • 1
    "It has the long-term effect of enlarging the divide between the middle/high class and the lower class" This seems to come out of nowhere. How do support such a position?
    – NPSF3000
    Sep 28, 2021 at 20:07
  • @NPSF3000 The Apollo project costed 25 billion dollars per year. Mid-60s, US GDP was around 1000 billion dollars. 2.5 % of GDP annually over a 10-year period has been invested in that space exploration program. You do not need a PhD in macroeconomics that the 2.5% didn't go to the lower class. In the long term, it could, if not for the fact that lower-class people are usually employed in mass-manufacturing, and the mass-manufacture of the wonderous technological fall backs (electronics, metals, chemistry) from the Apollo project has constantly been outsurced from the US.
    – EarlGrey
    Sep 29, 2021 at 14:39
  • " You do not need a PhD in macroeconomics that the 2.5% didn't go to the lower class. " Sure, you can say that, but how do you know that to be true? I have numerous devices in my house that directly use satellite data to work, and plenty of stuff that I'm sure indirectly relies on space technology. If you want to make specific claims, please have specific facts to back them up, not vague notions.
    – NPSF3000
    Sep 29, 2021 at 15:43
1

Mounting a successful mission to Mars is about the most difficult technical task one can undertake in contemporary times. It is EXTREMELY difficult - there have been a lot of well financed failures by more than one nation.

NASA's Mars missions are the exception, not the rule. Outside of them, there is over a 50% failure rate on Mars missions.

If India can successfully pull this off, multiple times, they will be demonstrating to the world that their high tech is as good as anyone's. 'Designed in India' will get a huge boost, and not just in space technology, but also across the entire high tech industry.

Unspoken, but implied is: unlike some nations, India didn't have to steal the tech. They created it internally.

0

Consider your constant arguments in preference for a moon mine along these lines:

What if Shah Jahan had instead set a goal of opening a marble quarry near Agra? Surely such a quarry would have been useful, but would it still have an impact today? Building the Taj Mahal certainly required quarrying the raw minerals for its construction, but such a quarry was a side effect rather than the goal.

Consider that interplanetary missions will benefit from having a base on the moon for staging. This may require mining. It will likely require further infrastructure as well. The best way to design such a base that will meet those needs will be to have it as a requirement in a larger project to fill those needs rather than the end result.

2
  • 1
    I am not saying to "close" all future projects(or am despising already done feats.), just to keep track of the "gains" of the missions(at that is the essence of the question). I personally feel that Humanity is the superset of Curiosity, not otherwise. The actual decision of the answer to the question must be made by people who are (sincere) scientists and (sincere) politicians who should properly "enumerate" and "weigh" factors and decide if it is necessary or not. I only thought that this site would be a good platform. Sep 30, 2021 at 3:53
  • Ah, then perhaps your question might better rephrased as "Does the benefit of Mars mission outweight the cost? Why?" Your current phrasing is too similar to those made by people who are despising space exploration program in its entirety, so the answers you got are also about countering those.
    – justhalf
    Sep 30, 2021 at 4:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .