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With the accomplishment of Mission Shakti, here's a look at the journey of India's space program

India now has a commendable track record when it comes to space technology and research. They deserve the appreciation irrespective of which government sanctioned the project. However governments would do well not to bring research organisation into the web of politics in the future.

March 30, 2019 / 07:43 PM IST
Representative image.

Representative image.

Last week marked yet another milestone in India’s growing space prowess with the success of anti-satellite (ASAT) named Mission Shakti, which can destroy an orbiting (enemy) satellite.

With this feat, India joins the elite club of the US, Russia and China that have this capability. In a live broadcast to the nation on March 27, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “This is a big moment for India. Something that all of us should be proud of. We are not just capable to defend on land, water and air, but now also in space. I congratulate all scientists who have made this possible and made India a much stronger nation.”

According to reports, the project was commissioned two years back. The ASAT destroyed a pre-determined target which was 300 kilometres in the low earth orbit, which within a range three minutes.

While prominent leaders from different parties applauded the efforts of scientists in Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), they also criticised Modi for his timing with election campaigns heating up as Lok Sabha polls are nearing.

At times like these, it does some good to take a step back and appreciate India’s tremendous growth in space research and technology, for we have come a long way.

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Let us take ISRO. The organisation was first founded in August 1969 and built its first satellite Aryabhata in 1975. Since then we have launched over 100 satellites to space. The organisation has moved from developing communication satellites to more sophisticated human spaceflight programme Gaganyaan, which was proposed to be launched by December 2021.

Prior to that the ISRO scientists successfully launched India’s first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-I at the first attempt on 22 October,2008, and at a fraction of cost of that of Western counterparts. Even India’s first spaceflight programme, proposed at the investment of Rs 10,000 crore, is much cheaper than that of the US or China. In comparison, the US’ Apollo programme cost $20 million back in 1970s.

India’s Mars mission comes at a cost of $74 million, a fraction of $671 million spend by the US space agency NASA on its Mars mission MAVEN, according to a NDTV article.

India now has a commendable track record when it comes to space technology and research. They deserve the appreciation irrespective of which government sanctioned the project.

Sure, the a​ddress does raise questions about timing and the Prime Minister’s live address was touted as the propaganda for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

However it is better to leave to the Election Commission, the designated authority to judge whether the announcement was politically motivated or not. In this case, the commission has concluded that it did not violate the moral code of conduct.



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Swathi Moorthy
first published: Mar 30, 2019 07:40 pm
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