Most of us felt a little thrill of excitement as Mangalyaan, India’s first orbiter to Mars, took off into space. No mean feat. This first is all set to put our country in the league of the extraordinary — making it the fourth country in the world to have attempted a journey to the Red Planet.
But we at GT have been set off on a tangent. Why is space research so important to India? What is its relevance and why does a developing but aspiring nation like India need it? Is it a new global status symbol? Too many questions, we know. Here, we try and answer a few and urge you to set out on your own exploration, as always.
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) — yes, that is the official name of the mission — has been on full throttle. Allocation of funds in March 2012, twenty odd months of rigorous work by scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and phew, an orbiter ready to go by October 2013! So what are the objectives of the mission? As per the men at the helm of affairs at ISRO, it is all about testing and extending technological capabilities and the extending knowledge. The agenda? To demonstrate that India has the capability to reach Mars. How will it help us?
Navigation: Big on Global Positioning Systems? Well, networks of satellites make it possible!
Agriculture: Weather forecast is possible only because of developments in space research. Crop yields prediction, soil reports are some of the other benefits.
Natural calamities: Floods, storms, tornadoes and hurricanes can be better handled with the help of satellites. Mining and minerals: These are buried deep under the Earth's surface. Their location can be traced using satellites.
The other side
Here are some of the arguments being put forth by the critics (and the cynics?). This display of scientific achievement is just one attempt by the ruling party to give people a reason to feel cheered. Forget the almost–hundred rupees-a-kilo-onions, here is your reason to cheer?
Huh? Others say it is an attempt to defeat China in the race to reach Mars — China’s orbiter, sent in 2011, had failed. Yet another group suggested that this is a way of offsetting the failure to send Chandrayaan-2 on time.
Critics apart, this story here is your window into the world of space research in India. There is no denying India’s prowess and accomplishments as far as space research goes. Go find out how space research (and 70 satellite launches) has benefitted weather monitoring, mobile communication, education and disaster management. We would love to hear back from you. Write in to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a message on Facebook!
The Mars club
Once successful, Mangalyaan will place India in the elite intra-planetary club which includes the United States, Europe and Russia. Their probes have orbited or landed on Mars.
India’s space programme took off 50 years ago with the first sounding rocket flying up from Thumba, the spaceport near Thiruvananthapuram in 1963.
Indian space research goes social
“While Mangalyaan takes 1.2 billion dreams to Mars, we wish you sweet dreams!", ISRO tweeted soon after the launch. Their Facebook page, ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission, was launched on October 22 and has got 2.9 lakh followers. “That is 2.9 lakh people discussing science. That is an achievement!” Dr K Radhakrishan, Chairman, ISRO, has been quoted as saying.