Posts Tagged ‘chandrayaan’

Mangalyaan: Indian Mission to Mars

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on September 25th, 2014 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

This essay was written in November 2013 and published ( along with some supplementary eye-catching material) in  Power Politics , December 2013 issue: http://www.powerpolitics.in/Issues/December2013/page31.php

 

 

Rajesh Kochhar

 

On 5 November 2013, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully launched its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Although the Mission has been nicknamed Mangalyaan in imitation of the 2008 Moon probe, Chandrayaan-I, there is a major difference between the two. While the latter actually landed on the Moon, the present craft will not touch Mars but revolve around it.

The simplest way of sending a space probe to Mars would be to launch it with the help of a powerful rocket that will take it straight to the destination. In the absence of such a powerful vehicle at India’s command, ISRO is depending on its trusted, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). The  travel method that uses the least possible amount of fuel, is complex and involves many interdependent steps. At each step one should keep one’s fingers crossed.

The journey up to Mars will be completed in three stages. The first stage began with the placement of MOM in the initial elliptical orbit around the Earth. By firing  engines in quick succession (originally scheduled for  7, 8, 9, 11 and  16 November and 1 December),  the orbit would be made more and more elliptical till  finally it becomes hyperbolic. In other words, the Mission will spiral outwards till it feels energetic enough to leave the Earth’s gravitational field altogether. This would occur at a distance of about a million kilometers from the Earth.

The second stage of the journey is uneventful. The Mission will move a long distance of about 200 million kilometers in the interplanetary space for about 300 days to knock at the door of Martian gravitational field, that is at a distance of about  half a million kilometers from Mars. If all goes well, on 24 September 2014, a rocket will be fired, this time to slow down the Mission so that it can start orbiting Mars. If for whatever reason the Mission is not captured by the Martian gravitational field, it will be lost forever.

Why Mars?

Next to the Moon, Mars is the only attractive destination for extraterrestrial travel. Mars is the second smallest planet in the Solar System. The intense heat of the neighbouring Sun has stripped Mercury of all matter except the dense core. In the case of Mars disruptive influences have come from the tidal effect of Jupiter which prevented the asteroidal belt from coalescing into a planet and robbed Mars of its outer layers so that Mars is barely one tenth of Earth’s mass. The iron oxide on its surface gives the planet blood red colour and in antiquity earned for it, as a divinity, association with war.

All planets have a core made of iron. Since the Earth is fairly big sized, the weight of the outer layers keeps the core in a molten stage. The molten core in turn produces a magnetic field which shields the Earth from being bombarded by  charged energetic particles coming  from the Sun  Earth. If the Earth did not have a magnetic field, life even if it evolved could not have been sustained. Mars like the Moon does not have a magnetic field.

Unlike Venus, which has a dense atmosphere, Mars like the Earth and the Moon has a reachable solid surface. Mars is the only planet whose surface can be examined from the Earth with the help of a telescope. The spin  of Mars is like the Earth’s so that its day-and-night cycle is like ours, Its tilt is also like the Earth’s so that its seasons are like ours, The similarity ends there, Because of its small size, it has a very thin atmosphere, mostly consisting of carbon dioxide. Because of its larger distance from the Sun, it can get very cold. The temperature on Mars may reach a high of about 20 Celsius at noon at the equator in the summer, or a low of about -153 Celsius at the poles. At mid-latitudes, the temperature range could be zero to -60 Celsius. Such low temperatures are bad for mechanical and electronic parts of space crafts and instruments that land on the planet.

Space age

There is an irony in astronomy. It is easier to study distant objects than the nearest ones. Stars ( beginning with the Sun), stellar debris,  gas clouds, galaxies and other phenomena can be studied by examining the electromagnetic radiation emanating from them. But since the members of the Solar System do not shine in their own light, we must go to them to get a closer look.

It must however be kept in mind that in space astronomy, political one-upmanship and considerations of national prestige have been a major driving force. The advent of Space Age was a direct corollary of the cold war of the 1950s  between the two superpowers of the time, Soviet Union and USA. It is a historical curiosity that the pre-history of the  space race and India’s introduction to space began with  the same event.

In 1952, the International Council of Scientific Unions decided to establish International Geophysical Year (IGY) from 1 July  1957  to  31 December 1958, because the cyclic solar activity would be very high then. Eventually 64 countries participated in IGY. In October 1954, the Council adopted a resolution calling for artificial satellites to be launched during the IGY to map the Earth’s surface.  Following up, in July 1955, USA announced its plans to launch an Earth-orbiting satellite. Six weeks later, in September, the Naval Research Laboratory was given approval for its Vanguard proposal.

Stealing the march over its arch rival USA, USSR launched the world’s first artificial satellite Sputnik I on 4 October 1957. Pressing the advantage, Soviet Union launched Sputnik III on 3 November 1957 whose  payload included a stray female dog. Laika  who was picked from the streets of Moscow became the first animal to orbit the Earth.

If Sputnik I excited the world, it stunned and alarmed USA. It decided to meet the challenge at political, educational and technological levels. If the Soviets could  launch satellites, they could also fire inter-continental ballistic missiles carrying nuclear weapons. USA must beat Soviet Union on land and in space.

Immediately after the Sputnik I launch, the USA approved funding for the Explorer project. On 31 January 1858, Explorer-I was launched with the help of a rocket made by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency  under the direction of  Wernher Von Braun, the leader of the team that had earlier built the celebrated German V-2 rocket .  The satellite instrumentation of Explorer-I was designed and built by James Van Allen.  Explorer-I went on to make the first scientific discovery from outer space; it spotted the  magnetic radiation belts around the Earth,  since named after Van Allen.

It was instantly  realized that if USA were to obtain and maintain lead as a superpower, it must reform its education system. So far, its education had largely been a state and local prerogative. The National Defense Education Act passed on 2 September  1958 gave the federal government an unprecedented role in educational matters. The act earmarked the then huge amount of $1 billion for giving college students loans and scholarships, and scientific equipment to public and private schools. Reflecting its origin in the Sputnik furor, the act emphasized the study of mathematics, science and foreign languages.

For meeting the challenge posed by the Sputnik launch on long-term basis, USA created  National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from 1 October 1958. If the Soviet Union had the satisfaction of launching the first artificial satellite and placing the first man in space, USA would have the distinction of taking a man to the Moon and bringing him back safely. The Soviet and American lunar space probes enriched our understanding of the Moon. In particular the robotic collection of lunar samples helped scientists understand the ‘geology’ of the Moon as well as the processes involved in its formation as a sister planet, rather than a satellite of, the Earth. Landing of an American citizen on the Moon in 1969 may have been a giant step for mankind and an all-time photo opportunity, but it had no worthwhile scientific merit. Our understanding of the Moon would have remained substantially the same even if Man had not set foot on it. The cold war may have ended, but the extra-scientific dimension of space exploration has persisted.

 

India and the satellites

On its part, newly independent India very enthusiastically joined the IGY programme. IGY’s prime mover, the American science administrator Lloyd Berkner, met Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in January 1957 who promised all help. While most of the success that attended Indian efforts was incremental ( in ionospheric studies, for example), an entirely new vista was opened by IGY. India was introduced to the new field of satellites. Naini Tal Observatory was one of the 12 world stations equipped with a Baker-Nunn camera by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) to optically track artificial earth satellites. This part of the IGY programme was overseen by the director of Naini Tal observatory Manali Kallat Vainu Bappu who was educated at Hyderabad and sent to Harvard Observatory on a government scholarship for his Ph.D. Bappu’s Harvard connection was   a great help because SAO’s new dynamic director Fred Whipple  was also from Harvard. While the other satellite tracking stations the world over were  under  SAO’s control, the Indian station would be ‘under the complete jurisdiction of local astronomers’.

 

USA was very sensitive that the project should be viewed as international and not American. The importance USA attached to satellite tracking programme under IGY can  be gauged form the fact that New York Times carried a news item datelined Naini Tal where the reporter made it a point to mention that both Soviet and American satellites would be tracked and the information ‘will become part of the treasury of scientific data’ of IGY.

 

The Baker-Nunn camera was shipped to India in March 1958, and the  first track recorded in September 1958. For the first few years an observer from SAO worked with the Naini Tal staff. The project continued well beyond IGY,  that is till 1976.  Thanks to the project, the geographical location of the camera was recorded to an accuracy of better than 10 m, so much so that ‘the Survey of India tied their triangulation network to this benchmark’.

 

Sarabhai

 

It will be no exaggeration to say that the IGY experience paved the way for Indian space programme under  Vikram Sarabhai. Sarabhai had set up Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad (PRL),   in 1947 under the directorship of  K. R. Ramanathan  who had just retired from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and who  served as the president of International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics 1954-1957. IMD with its vast network of scientific stations was a major player in Indian IGY programme (so was All India Radio). PRL and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research , Bombay ,  established by Homi Jahangir Bhabha in 1945, though privately owned in a legal sense were generously supported by the government. While Bhabha or his institute had no role in IGY, Sarabhai and PRL were actively involved, no doubt because of the Ramanathan connection. (It is remarkable that Bhabha who pioneered India’s nuclear programme and Sarabhai who pioneered the space programme both died an unnatural death.)

 

Sarabhai had already been interested in observational studies of the impact of solar activity on cosmic rays. IGY exposure helped him expand his horizons. In 1962, an Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was set up. The very next year there came up the Equatorial Rocket Launching Station at Thumba near Trivandrum. Indian Space Research Organization was established in 1969, followed  by the establishment of a Space Commission and a full-fledged government’s Department of Space in 1972.  India’s first satellite, named Aryabhata after the sixth century Indian astronomer, was launched in 1975  and tracked at Naini Tal from the facility set up during IGY.

 

Arnold Frutkin, who was the director of NASA’s Office of International Programmes 1959 onwards, has an interesting story to tell. USA was planning the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) which could broadcast into home receivers provided the host country set up some simple equipment. NASA wished to have a big country like India participate in the programme. The India desk in the state department however declined to approach India because India had earlier refused permission to Voice of America to set up its broadcasting stations. The fact that SITE was not propaganda but science cut no ice with the officials. Frutkin then decided to take matters into his own hand. He knew Sarabhai well as he had been dealing with Sarabhai on sounding rocket programmes. He phoned Sarabhai and persuaded him not only to arrange for India’s participation but also to write as if the initiative was coming from India itself. The programme which lasted from 1 August 1975 to 31 July 1976,  was such a great success from the Indian point of view that India unsuccessfully tried to get the availability of the US satellite extended for another year. India then decided to make use of commercial satellites. Eventually India developed its own satellite network as part of INSAT (Indian National Satellite System) programme, established in 1983.

 

Indian Mars mission objectives

Dutifully, ISRO has spelt out what it aims to achieve from the project.  Its technological objectives, shorn of the verbiage, boil down to this: the Mission has been undertaken to demonstrate that it can be accomplished. The 1337 kg  Indian Mars Mission carries a 13 kg scientific payload for five small experiments. The most eye-catching scientific objective is the detection of methane. Methane made up of one atom of carbon and four atoms of hydrogen can be a marker of the existence of biological processes. (Note that on the Earth cow flatulence is a major producer of methane.) Methane if present on Mars would not necessarily mean that some sort of life is present there, because it can be produced by geological processes also, but its presence would certainly excite the newsreaders.

It is easier for scientific missions to find funding in India than in the West where the elected representatives have to be canvassed and convinced. Life, as we know on the Earth or come across in the comic books or science-fiction movies, does not, cannot, exist anywhere else in our planetary system. When the scientists discuss among themselves  the possibility of extra-terrestrial life, they are merely talking of complex molecules.  However, if the fund-givers get a different more spectacular impression, scientists are not particularly keen to dispel it.

The technological and scientific objectives are distinct in that they demand entirely different mindsets as  should become clear from the Chandrayaan-I experience.

The space programme is an exercise in engineering. It requires thorough familiarity with known technologies, eye for detail, and  meticulous care in planning and execution. The same can be said about scientific instrumentation also. But once data is obtained, boldness is required in its analysis and self-confidence in publishing the results. One wishes the Indian space scientists had shown alacrity in publishing their finding from the CHACE experiment aboard Chandrayaan-I on the presence of water vapour in the lunar atmosphere to claim priority in world scientific literature.

The poverty argument

The Times London noted the event by launching a virulent attack on India for its split personality. One third of Indian population has no access to a private lavatory. As many as 1.7 million Indian children die due to preventable diseases. Of those who survive, half suffer from malnutrition. Such a country, noted the London paper, has no right to squander money on such luxuries as space programme; it should rather utilize its resources in removing poverty and deprivation. The sentiments expressed are unexceptional. They would have more convincing if there was a consistency in the criticism of India’s profligacy.

I do not think The Times ever wrote an editorial criticizing Indian middle class’s lust for consumerism, or India’s squandering of its limited resources on such ecologically harmful items as motor cars. Since such expenditures are good for the Western economy, they are welcome. But whenever India achieves anything of strategic or geo-political significance, poverty argument is thrown at its face. It is nobody’s point that India should keep a very substantial part of its large population in extreme poverty. It is also conceded that the efforts which India should be making in this direction are not being made. The amount of money being spent on prestige-oriented projects is a very small fraction of Indian GDP which does not come in the way of poverty alleviation. If poverty is not being removed, it is not because money is being transferred to the space programme but because there is no collective political will to do so.

The Mars Mission has cost Indian exchequer no more than $75 million. How small the amount is can be seen from the fact that in the fiscal year 2011-12, India spent as much as $ 519 million on cosmetics and toiletries and related items such as essential oils.

It is conceded by everybody that Indian space programme is exceedingly good value for money. If the Indian space programme falters in the future,  it will not be because of shortage of money but because of paucity of manpower. India created ISRO on the lines of NASA, but it did not create anything on the lines of the US National Defence Education Act.

Regrettably, in recent years, the Indian state has used globalization as an excuse to abdicate its responsibility in the vital area of education including science education. India should drastically improve its education system school upwards, pay attention to agricultural and industrial production, base its economy on science rather than services, and integrate prestige-building, technology-based programmes into the economy. Such programmes should not be an artificially created oasis in the midst of a vast desert, but part of a large landscape.

The writer is the President of International Astronomical Commission on History of Astronomy and a former Director of National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi (CSIR).

 

India’s lunar spacecraft Chandrayaan – I in a wider context

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on April 19th, 2010 by Rajesh Kochhar – 3 Comments

India successfully launched its first unmanned spacecraft, Chandrayaan-I, on 22 October 2008. On 14 November 2008, it entered its final operational orbit at a height of 100 km from the lunar surface. The same day, Moon Impact Probe (MIP) was released to hit the southern pole of the Moon .Much to the delight of the Indians, the Probe deposited India’s national flag on the Moon. The choice of the date was significant. 14 November is the birthday of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister and a great supporter of science and technology.

Chandrayaan carried eleven thematically integrated scientific payloads, five from India, three from European Space Agency (ESA), two from USA and one from Bulgaria. All the experiments aimed at creating a high-resolution map of the lunar surface and the minerals beneath it. Although the mission was originally planned to last two years, it had to be aborted on 30 August 2009, once the craft lost radio contact with the earth. It however did provide valuable data while it lasted.

The most spectacular early scientific results from the mission came from the two US payloads; a mineral explorer nick-named M3; and a radar named mini-SAR. They provided first direct confirmation of presence of water in the form of ice on the Moon. The M3 paper, with Carle Pieters as the lead author, was published in Science on 24 October 2009. It was followed by the mini-SAR paper, with Paul Spudis as the first author, which appeared in the 22 December 2009 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. The Americans handsomely acknowledged the contribution of Indian space technologists. Pieters went on record declaring that “If it were not for them, we would not have been able to make the discovery”.

Like Indian Space Research Organization’s earlier missions this one was also a remote sensing satellite except that Chandrayaan-I focused on the Moon rather than the Earth. The Moon has never been imaged as closely as was done by the Chandrayaan. With its successful launch India joins a select club comprising US, Russia, Japan and China. India’s space program is extremely good value for money from even international standards. No wonder then that ISRO’s rocket launching facilities are being commercially used by others. Perhaps the best testimony to India’s space program comes from the fact that it had such high faith in its own capabilities that no need was felt to insure the Chandrayaan.

Indian public, parliament and media as well as the world at large have been unanimous or near-unanimous in hailingIndia’s foray into the outer space. India now plans to use cryogenic fuel for its rocket launch. There is already a talk about manned space flights, mission to Mars, and commercial space travel.India’s first attempt to launch an advanced communication satellite using cryogenic fuel faile on 15 April 2010)

India’s space program is the most successful of all national science initiatives. One reason for this is easy to see. In space exploration there is no room for excuses or rationalizations. The difference between success and failure is obvious. Either a satellite remains in orbit or falls down. The principles and procedures that have been developed in space management need to be carefully studied with a view to examining the possibility of their wider application in India’s other initiatives in science and technology.

Rising and flat technologies

Without diminishing the credit due to India, its space program needs to be examined in a wider context for purposes of insight. Let us make a distinction between a rising technology and a flat technology. As the name suggests a rising technology is one which is currently undergoing rapid phases of development while a flat technology is one which has been more or less standardized. Clearly, a rising technology of today is a flat technology of tomorrow.

USA focuses its attention on the rising technologies of the day. Once they are standardized, it parcels them off to lesser countries, e. g. in car manufacture. (This is certainly not a good philosophy. In addition to focus on rising tech, production of wealth through flat techs is good for a country’s economy and mindset.)

If lunar missions now have been left to the likes of Japan,China and India, it is because the missions now constitute standard technologies. If colonization and mining of celestial bodies become a possibility, you would see the initiative being grabbed back by US and to a lesser extent by ESA.

Profit motive

It is interesting that when Mount Everest is climbed, no justification is asked for or proffered. Yet in the case of a technological mission some profit should be promised. May be this is because of the heavy costs involved.

It has been proposed that the Moon itself can be colonized and used as a launching pad for farther colonies. The India’s new space chairman has suggested that the tunnels made on the moon by lava can be used for housing humans, and probably their pets also. If this is escapism, there is another suggestion that the Moon be asked to meet Earth’s energy and resource need. As is well known the lunar soil contains vast amounts of helium 3, an isotope of helium. There are experts who would  like  this helium to be dug up and brought to earth for use as a raw material for fusion reactions. It has been suggested that water be brought from Moon to the Earth for consumption here. To me, the whole idea of bringing resources from the Moon to the Earth is an exceptionally stupid one and needs to be squashed right away. I shall however support the move to park all the cars on the Moon and utilize Earth’s surface in a more constructive manner.

I mention this to encourage you to formulate your own views on the subject.

US role in pre-history of India’s space program

India was introduced to the new field of satellites as part of the International Geophysical Year 1957-58 program. Naini Tal Observatory in the Himalayas was chosen as one of the 12 field stations equipped by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory with a Baker-Nunn camera for optical tracking of the artificial satellites. The project continued till 1976. During the first two years, an observer from SAO worked with the Naini Tal staff. The contacts during IGY led to India’s participation in the US Satellite Instructional Television Experiment. After completion of the contractual one-year period, India took the help of commercial satellites and then developed its own satellite network.

In 1963, India established Equatorial Rocket Station at Thumba, near Trivandrum, in South India. The site was chosen because it is located just half a degree south of the magnetic equator. ISRO was established in 1969, and India’s first satellite named Aryabhata after the celebrated 6th century astronomer, was launched in 1976.

Manpower

What would limit India’s space ambitions is not technology or finance but manpower. Globalization has encouraged well-trained Indian young men and women to take up petty jobbery, beneath their intellect and skills, for the sake of a dollar pay packet which though small in absolute terms still translates into a neat bundle in Indian rupees.

Fortuitously  Chandrayaan’s launch has coincided with the onset of world-wide financial and economic crises. It is as well that the quantification of financial instruments has fallen into disrepute and the processes of globalization received a setback.  Their glamour and pelf were acting as a brain sink, to the detriment of science. If Lehman Brothers was to be the resting place for Indian Institute of Technology-imparted engineering skills, it is good that it has closed down.

India’s quest for water on Moon

The impact probe MIP which deposited Indian national flag on the Moon also carried a scientific payload, nick-named CHACE, comprising a mass spectrometer. During the 25 minutes of fall on to the lunar surface, CHACE obtained data confirming the presence of water vapour in  the Moon’s atmosphere on the sunlit side. A team of Indian scientists sent their paper to Science in December 2008, which however rejected it in March 2009. The Indian authors then sent the paper to Nature in April 2009, which also rejected it, in July 2009. Finally, in November 2009, the paper, with R. Sridharan as the first author was sent to a lesser journal Space and Planetary Science which published it on 6 March 2010.In the mean time both the US publications, from the M3 and mini-SAT teams, had already appeared, as already noted.

It is significant that the Indian authors chose to try their luck in international journals like Science and Nature rather than quickly publish their findings in an Indian journal. //

Chandrayaan-I (2008)

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on December 10th, 2008 by Rajesh Kochhar – 1 Comment

Power Politics, New Delhi, November 2008 

Chandrayaan – I

Rajesh Kochhar

On 22 October 2008 India successfully launched its first unmanned spacecraft, Chandrayaan-I, into space. As a first step the craft has been placed in an elongated orbit around the Earth. The orbit will be made more and more elongated till  in about two weeks’ time the craft is transferred to a lunar orbit about 100 km away from the Moon. The 590 kg probe will have a  working life of about two years.  It carries eleven thematically integrated  scientific payloads, five from India, three from European Space Agency(ESA), two from USA and one from Bulgaria. All the experiments aim at creating a high-resolution map of the lunar surface and the minerals beneath it. NASA is particularly interested in searching for ice beneath the lunar poles. 

Like Indian Space Research Organization’s earlier  missions this one is also a remote sensing satellite   except that it focuses on the Moon rather than the Earth. With its successful launch India joins a select club comprising US, Russia, Japan and China

The Moon is unique in the solar system in an important aspect. While the other natural satellites are minuscule compared to the parent planet, the Moon and the Earth are more like a double planet. Indeed ancient Indian folklore dubs Moon as a brother of the mother Earth (hence the epithet Chanda-mama). 

As can be expected from an ancient culture India has an abiding affair with the Moon.  Serving as a time-keeper. coming to the aid of a harassed mother by lulling the child to sleep; acting as a witness to the lovers’ tryst; inspiring the poets– the waxing and waning Moon has always played an important societal role that has been highlighted in a number of melodious film songs in the past decades. India is now seeking to establish a first-hand and a  more material equation with our terrestrial neighbour. 

What is the mission expected to achieve? The Moon has never been imaged so closely as will be done by the Chandrayaan. How the solar system formed is a challenging research problem in astronomy . Within the solar system the formation of the Earth-Moon system raises many questions. Additional data will help refine the existing theories, although it is unlikely that any surprises will be sprung. 

Can the mission have any utilitarian value? Very wisely ISRO does not say. But there are long-standing suggestions on the practical side of lunar missions that have now been revived.  Thus it has been proposed that the Moon itself can be colonized and used as a launching pad for farther colonies. If this is escapism,  there is another suggestion that  the Moon be asked to meet Earth’s energy needs. As is well known the lunar soil contains vast amounts of helium 3, an isotope of helium. There are experts who would  like  this helium to be dug up and brought to earth for use as a raw material for fusion reactions. It is interesting that when Mount Everest is climbed no justification is asked for or proffered. Yet in  the case of a technological mission some profit should be promised. May  be this is because of the  heavy costs involved. 

The whole idea of bringing resources from the Moon to the Earth is an exceptionally stupid one  and needs to be squashed right away. 

In my view the most important aspect of the Chandrayaan mission is that it would plant Indian national flag on the Moon. An unmanned space-probe is a technological feat of high order. An added feature is that India’s space program is extremely good value for money from even international standards. No wonder then that ISRO’s rocket launching facilities are being commercially used by others. It is  most appropriate that the space vehicle launching facility at Shriharikota on the eastern coast has been named after Satish Dhawan. If Vikram Sarabhai be compared to the founder of the Mughal Empire ,Babar, then Dhawan can be equated with Akbar. 

India’s space program is the most successful of all national science initiatives. One reason for this is easy to see. In space exploration there is no room for excuses or rationalizations. The difference between success and failure is obvious . Either a satellite remains in orbit or falls down. The principles and procedures  that have been developed in space management need to be carefully studied with a view to examining the possibility of their wider application. 

Without diminishing the credit due to India, its space program needs to be examined in a wider context for purposes of insight. Let us make a distinction between a rising technology and a flat technology. As the name suggests a rising technology is one which is currently undergoing rapid phases of development while a flat technology is one which has been more or less standardized. Clearly, a rising technology of today is a flat technology of tomorrow.

 If lunar missions  now have been left to the likes of Japan, China and Japan  it is because they  now constitute standard technologies. If colonization and mining of celestial bodies become a possibility, you would see the initiative being grabbed back by US and to a lesser extent by ESA.

Where does India go from here? A manned flight and an Indian on the Moon are said to be on the cards. Given ISRO’s record these goals should not be difficult to accomplish. What would limit India’s space ambitions is not technology or finance but manpower. 

Fortuitously  Chandrayaan has  been well-timed. Its launch has coincided with the onset of world-wide financial and economic crises. It is as well that the quantification  of financial instruments has fallen into disrepute and the processes of globalization received a setback.  Their glamour and pelf were  acting as a brain sink, to the detriment of science. If Lehman Brothers was to be the resting place for Indian Institute of Technology-imparted engineering skills, it is good that it is closed down. 

Almost two centuries ago India became the first country in the world in modern times to receive state aid for education. This was a dubious distinction, because the state in question was the East India Company and the aid was meant to subsidize the education of children of wealthy Indians. This sort of elitism has returned with vengeance in the globalization era. The Indian state has been greatly indulgent towards the education of those who would de-nationalize themselves and not mind even petty jobbery beneath their intellect and skills for the sake of a dollar pay packet which though small   in absolute terms still translates into a neat bundle in rupees.

To meet the  manpower requirement of ISRO and other similar agencies, the government should strengthen middle-order institutions and bring in first-generation learners. 

Indian public, parliament and media as well as the world at large have been unanimous  or near-unanimous in hailing India’s foray into the outer space. Perhaps the best testimony to India’s space  programme comes from the fact that  it  had such high faith in its own capabilities that  no need was felt to insure the Chandrayaan.//