Thursday, September 25, 2014
India's Mars mission - The eyewash that will thrust the poor into a deeper and gloomier doom
It's said to be "cheap," probably from the Western perspective of $$$$. Considering that the spacecraft was built locally with supposedly no outsourcing production or buying pricy foreign components, $74 million is not "cheap," certainly not from the Indian standpoint where poverty is a historical reality and 500 million people live below $1.00 a day. How many desperately poor and malnourished villagers living on grass and toads could have been fed for $74 million? Similar questions were abuzz concerning Iran from Western sources when Iran set up a space tracking center in 2013 and sent a second live monkey safely to space in 2014 even though despite the harsh sanctions for 35 years, Iran's civic infrastructure is far superior to India (no comparison) and the level of poverty and starvation in Iran compared to India is almost nil. But concerns over the inescapable upcoming negative impact on Indian economy because of the Mars orbiter mission have conveniently been slipped under the rug .. not an unusual media bias.
The Indian spacecraft is "cheap" because it's lightweight which means it can carry lesser instruments. Logically this implies that its scientific research capabilities are limited and so the spacecraft could not touch down the surface of Mars as additional shielding equipments would be required for landing, making the spacecraft heavier and increasing its cost. It will only orbit above the planet's surface to study methane levels in the atmosphere, a very basic probe, but that's as much as it can do.
Briefly put, it's all about dissing China. During the past two days each piece of news on this topic in the mainstream media has begun and ended with a monotonous hype to the effect, "China failed in 2012; India was successful and made world history being the first Asian country to reach Mars." One such story writes "Undoubtedly, a risky mission, but one that paid off." Paid off what .. feeding India with empty pride or satisfying the hunger of its starving millions?
After China's Change-3 successfully completed its mission of landing on the moon in 2013 and statements from experts that China intends to expand its space travel including the exploration of Mars, the Western space industry (Mars mission being its prime goal) has been wondering about China's probe to Mars with deep apprehension. Knowing India's permanent limitations to fit into the developed world, the international space industry breathed a sigh of relief at India's small feat using it as an ammunition to heckle China. China is working on its 'Long March' rocket series including the Martian probe that has a lengthy and intricate program. With a total investment of 10 billion yuan, it's expected to produce a maximum of 12 Long March launch vehicles each year, aiming at sending the space station into orbit before 2020. The first task of the Long March 5 is to send a weather satellite into space from the launch center under construction in Hainan, the southern island Chinese province. In addition to at least two deep space monitoring stations within China, it's working on building more abroad for tracking space detectors 24/7. Thus, China follows its own approach with a steady focus on stable progress in preference to cheap quick moves based on budget-cutting and space-travel competition.
India's situation at best is murky and squalid. It's not in a position to amuse itself with these ostensible and pointless shenanigans. It needs to feed its teeming millions with at least one basic meal a day, provide safe drinking water, sanitation and housing, ban the rampant use of asbestos killing thousands of cancer, provide proper healthcare particularly for the poor, build a decent transport system (even Delhi doesn't have a subway yet), curb corruption, inflation, and numerous diseases at epidemic proportions, improve security for women and seriously crack down on the horrendous menace of rape that has become synonymous with Indian culture.
The global space industry has proliferated to $350 billion in revenues where India is fated to remain a small or non-existent player. But this little story of Mangalyaan Mars orbiter will spark the frenzy to expand the country's space program that was in hibernation for the last five decades. Consequently many more Indians must get ready to starve with a flimsy roof over their heads if they're fortunate, until or unless a mishap befalls one of those low-cost clattering spacecrafts exploding into smithereens in the solar system and the space program conking out again for the benefit of the country.
Category:: Unveiling dirty politics