India in Space Race – What is what and What is not?
Never would’ve any other recent scientific endeavor kick started a debate from a political perspective as much as the scientific point of view. Mangalyaan, India’s maiden attempt to reach the Red planet, blasted off to space nearly a couple of fortnights ago. Undoubtedly even before this mission the space race has began in Asia to gain supremacy in space technology, which doubles as the tryst for military supremacy.
Japan was the lone Asian player in Space games, later joined China and India, undeniably the emerging global powers from Asia. These mammoth nations are striving hard to prove their supremacy in their region. Blessed abundantly with the human resource than any other nations in the world, these two have become the fastest growing nations across Asian continent. So the need to gain supremacy in all the fronts is inevitable as seen from the diplomatic perspective.
The international community, especially the American media has looked this maiden Indian attempt from a biased point of view, focusing only on the necessity of such an attempt at this juncture considering the needy reformations waiting to be addressed back in India. Besides, the West is keen in dubbing such space missions by India wholly as its Space race with China, as if the missions have no other benefits back home. On Nov 6th, Hong Kong-CNN reported the successful launch of the Mangalyaan. The crux of the report questions the urgency of the mission and is clearly not in favour of the attempt.
A pensive reading on the article only reveals the biased view on the mission, a heap of pessimism to be precise. Any mission, be it any, will generate mixed opinions amid the people and scholars alike. But even skimming through the article shows up that the opinions compiled from various sources and interviews of scientists and other eminent scholars from India are not the views in favour of the mission.
The same article has garnered feedbacks many of which are mirror the concerns of this article. The home designed ‘Chandrayaan’ , the earlier Indian success story on the lunar investigation had pushed India further in the line of the International players in space technology which is dominated by a handful of Western nations. And Mangalyaan mission has helped India to climb up further in the ladder. Now India is looked upon as an emerging market by other nations around the world as a viable choice to fulfill their domestic ‘space’ needs. Since the space aviation sector of India will certainly be more cost effective than the costlier western counterparts, naturally India would be the logical choice for many developing and undeveloped nations. They would soon seek India for their needs. Soon the Space Technology might well be injecting a good amount of economy via foreign trade, akin to what the IT industry does to India currently.
The global Space Aviation and Technology industry is estimated to be a whooping $3 trillion industry. NASA of USA, ESA of Europe, and Russia are the major market players in the sector. Now the repeated success has opened the gates wide for India to join with this elite few in the market. The west is clearly unhappy about their business that might likely be shared by the Indian sub continent in the near future. The western fear roots from this and they try to disorient the public support for such programmes in the future, through clearly conceived demotivating strategies.
During the 1980s US had been the sole market player in the space launch industry. This unchallenged status was reached by the US as a result of the Space race that it engaged with the USSR since the cold war era. But due to the changes made in the US domestic policies, from then on the ESA (Europe Space Agency) grabbed the opportunity to fill the gap in the commercial launch business.
Sathish Dawan Space Center, a barrier island off coast in Andhra Pradesh, (just 80km north of Chennai, a major global IT hub in South India) has become one of the most preferred spaceports for rocket launching, next to French Guiana.
A spaceport has to fulfill two important geographical requirements. First, the location should be closer to the Equator, so that the spinning earth can impart additional velocity to the rockets. This makes the aviation easy when launched eastwards. Secondly, its remoteness from the human inhibited areas so that the space debris that falls off during the rocket launches don’t harm the human beings and their settlements.
Kourou, French Guiana is very close to equator at latitude of 5° and no wonder is one of the most preferred spaceports. Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota is yet another preferred site because of its proximity- latitude 13°N- to the equator. India recently has become more autonomous than ever before, in the Space technology and this has won the trust of many, for the failure rate is sparse in its launch history.
Western nations, America especially, hold the key of this age, ‘Information’ which is one of the main reasons why they are sort after be many nations. And this scheme would continue as long as they lead in the space race. They wouldn’t want or like the Asian players enter the game and challenge their supremacy.