World’s Cheapest Space Explorer Plans to Build Lunar Structures

India is examining how to build habitations on the moon.

World’s Cheapest Space Explorer Plans to Build Lunar Structures
A super blue blood moon sets behind the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, U.S. (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)  

(Bloomberg) -- India, which sent an orbiter to Mars at about 1/10th the cost of NASA’s Maven probe, is examining how to build habitations on the moon.

“ISRO, along with academic institutions, is doing experimentation on potential structures for lunar habitation,” Jitendra Singh, the junior minister for space, told lawmakers on Wednesday, referring to the Indian Space Research Organisation. “Various options are being studied about the requirements and complexities of habitats.”

India’s declaration -- just ahead of a planned lunar mission -- comes at a time when governments are looking at the moon for the first time in years. In the U.S., President Donald Trump requested almost $900 million in new funding for NASA moon missions, which include building a space station in lunar orbit by the mid-2020s. China this year plans to land a probe on the unexplored dark side of the moon, where radio signals from Earth can’t be received.

Singh’s answer was in response to a question on whether ISRO has started working on building “igloo-like habitats” on the lunar surface for potential future missions and is planning to use the Moon as an outpost such as those used for missions in Antarctica. The current study is “more towards futuristic developments,” Singh said in a written reply.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who heads the space portfolio, has intensified the pace of exploration and the program includes launching a satellite to look for potential disaster risks and provide information for mitigation, response and recovery. India plans to send an orbiter, a lander and a rover to the Moon this year to study lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice.

Most trips departing from India use the workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, or PSLV, which can take a micro-satellite into space for about $30 million, according to U.K.-based researcher Seradata Ltd. That tab is split if multiple satellites are hauled. Billionaires such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson are among people who are betting big on space, including potentially establishing human colonies in other planets.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anurag Kotoky in New Delhi at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at, Karthikeyan Sundaram, Arijit Ghosh

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