It has been reported that India's Mars mission, Mangalyaan, cost only \$74 million compared to \$671 million cost of Maven. What is the reason for this difference in cost? Are there any significant differences in the operation of two missions?
As per "From lighter rocket to slingshot, Isro innovates its way to Mars" from Hindustan Times:
The main reasons for the low cost are:
Low labour cost. In India scientists are working with very low pay which indirectly drives cost down.
Scientists relied on technologies they had used before. India had their PSLV launches before. The hardware of Chandrayaan was similar to MOM. Also LAM (Liquid Apogee Motor) has been tested several times in space for positioning satellites.
Kept the size of the payload small, at 15 kg. Initially they planned to send 12 payloads but due to approaching 2013 launch window they sent 5 payloads.
Saved on fuel by using a smaller rocket (PSLV) that was adapted from a launch vehicle that first flew in 1993.
Only one physical model of the Mangalyaan was built.
Two-thirds of the craft's parts were made by Indian companies which drives cost down.
This is not a comparison with MAVEN and is solely based on the Hindustan Times article.
Comparing Mangalyaan (MOM) to Maven there's a significant difference in mission, scientific capabilities and operational lifetime. Maven's primary purpose is to study the martian atmosphere, whereas MOM is more of a general purpose probe with surface study instruments. Maven has over 4 times the payload (65kg vs 15kg) and nearly double the number of instruments, which translates to more capability, and more capability means higher cost. Then there is the operational lifetime, Maven is planned to last up to 10 years, MOM's is 6-10 months although it will likely be extended.
In other words Maven's higher cost comes at least in part from more capability and a longer operational lifetime. That does not take away from the fact that Mangalyaan is a real feat, especially on such a low cost.
I believe India's Mars mission was much more cost-efficient than that of NASA's MAVEN due to the following reasons:
- ISRO made use of Indian parts for the construction of Mangalyaan which drastically cut down the prices.
- Use of inter-planetary slingshot played a major role.
- MAVEN's capability and operation lifetime is much more than that of Mangalyaan's.