September 20, 2013

Why India needs a Mangalayaan (or even Chandrayaan 2) ????

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In January 2013 there was an announcement that ISRO would undertake a mission to mars, probably in the month of November. If successful India will become the 5th country after US, Russia, Europe and Japan who have had a successful Mars mission. Magalayaan, as India's Mars mission has been christened, will look for signs of life and reasons why the red planet lost its atmosphere. But with this news, the critics of Mangalayaan kickoff their arguments with the following hard facts :

"Half of India's children are starving and on an average 3,000 children die from malnutrition every day."

Read more here:
"The World Bank report which declares that one-third of the world’s desperately poor people lived in India,  which amounts to 400 million people who survive on less than $1.25 a day."

Eventhough I do not contest the above stark ground realities of our country, I am compelled to comment when they conclude that it is a total  mindless cause of spending close to 500 crores for such kind of mission, whereas the same money can be used for the betterment of the Indian society.

But my question to those critics is whether 500 crores even a significant amount when you compare it against the gigantic problems faced by the country.  It is a decimal point when you compare it to the actual spending of the Indian government every year (considering for the fact that Mars mission cost is spread across 2 or more years ). It precisely comes around to 0.3% of the total govt spending's every year. Miniscule when considering the burden the government will endure for fuel subsidies or even the recently passed food security bill. Further consider if the same amount was allocated for some development purpose, the total corruption involved and the actual money which would benefit the target audience. Hence this amount is actually insignificant when you consider the scale of the problems faced by the country.

They say even if its a decimal point , why to waste it on something from which you get no returns. For that I love to disagree and I believe those returns can be divided into 2 major pointers, one tangible and another intangible :

1. Technology
2. Pride

Being a country which foresees itself to be developed country in the future, technology is one of the strongest and the fastest stallion to reach that destination. The r&d  for such a program will not be restricted to the space and defense applications, but it usually spills over to civilian technologies too. It is not a matter of surprise that US of A's technology might had its seed sown during the WW II, with one of the finest examples being nuclear technology. In Indian context you have the ready to eat technology which has come out Defence Food and Research Labs. India as a country never really had an industrial revolution thanks to the British occupation which literally ruined the local manufacturing industry by flooding Indian markets with the factory made British goods. Hence we cant really afford to miss the next step in technology revolution which might be exploiting resources of other planets. We have to become self sufficient and not reliant on other countries to provide us the resources at a jacked up price, which might throw us back by a few centuries again. Further our space budget is very miniscule when compared to those of the developed world, hence making it one of the most efficient space organizations around. ISRO is kinda like The Toyota Of the Space Organizations :P.

The second major pointer is that of pride. Imagine being one of the best in the world which might instill a sense of second to none attitude among us Indians. I recall the story of America's Moon Mission of 1969. Prior to this USSR was much ahead of US in terms of space technology having been the first to send a man made satellite, first animal in space, first human in space. But President Kennedy inspired the entire nation to beat the Russians at their own game and we can say the rest of it is history. I believe such an impossible task is the need of the hour for the Indians, to have that feeling of pride for the country. Some say that corruption which is one of biggest problems facing the nation can be solved by bringing in stringent laws,bills and other external forces, but somehow I feel this can be solved internally by instilling a sense of pride and patriotism among the citizens. And such missions to the heavenly bodies enables us to take baby steps towards that direction.

In short we have to capitalize on our strengths which are programs like these and as well as work as a nation to improve our weaknesses which are quite a plentiful, to ultimately secure the tag of a developed nation. 


  1. "Further consider if the same amount was allocated for some development purpose, the total corruption involved and the actual money which would benefit the target audience"

    I really support this point. When any projects gets kicked out, in a Govt side, its worse than what happens in "Sivaji - The Boss". The pipe just gets narrow at every stage of the approval itself.

    Afterall, its just 500 Crore to reach the Mars? Are you kidding? We have just spent 100 crore just to upgrade a ticketing site..

    "It would cost about Rs 100 crore to Railways for strengthening the ticketing site."

    And one more thing I would like to point out is, there is one more tangible pointer with this achievement, to the two pointers you have mentioned..

    3) Commercialization.

    ISRO does a lot of business through its launch vehicles. Why not start a "Off shore" launch site, Again? May be, Even more..

    But dude, it seems unwillingness to spend for Space exploration is same with Uncle Sam also..

    1. hmmm... d 3rd pointer is also relevant for mangalayaan since its also a sort of collaboration with NASA... so u never know in d future ISRO could be full blown commercial org.....
      I guess NASA's fundin is gettin reduced thnks to Uncle Sams uncertain economic future and NASA's staggering $17 billion budget...

  2. get a life people...
    build public toilets for the people first...

  3. Proud to be an Indian. Kudos to ISRO for this mission.
    Building toilets, infrastructure etc., are all necessary but maintenance is more important than building it. Unless Indians have the sense of pride, patriotism and a feeling of " this is mine", things will continue to stagnate. But things are improving and these are just growing pains!!!

    1. when do you think people will realize they are the ones who is responsible for maintaining the basic infrastructure like that...

    2. i am afraid i dont have an answer as to when.... lets hope that it will be within our time horizon :)

    3. Remember, Nithin, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies. (Straight from TSR) :)

      I really hope its a wheel and we go up again with our morals and values...

    4. I knew I had heard that quote somewhere before u revealed it urself :)
      Some people might say that people like u and me who hope or dream of a better India are being juvenile, considering the present state of affairs... but in Dr. Abdul Kalam's own words "You have to dream before your dreams can come true" !!!!!!!!..... so we r already doin tat :)

  4. Very informative! Thanks for spending so much time on such nice articles though u have a busy schedule! :-)

    1. thnks... it doesnt feel like an effort when u love doing it :)


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