From India to Mars: The Voyage of #Mangalyaan

English: Photograph of Martian Sunset taken fr...

Is this Mars sunset in India’s future? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many years ago, during my college days, I saw a magazine cover article on India’s space program.  This was back when that country first started providing Earth-orbiting launch services shortly after that industry first began.  It showed a man leading an ox-cart full of hay down a jungle road, back-dropped by a rocket launch.

Now Earth-orbiting satellites are a huge industry and India has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world.  Their policies concerning debt mean that they have weathered the last couple of recessions better than most, but their leaders admit that they still have two populations, and one of those remains very poor.  The conflict in Kashmir rages on as Islamic fundamentalists and Pakistan struggle to establish Shiria Law in the India’s Muslim-dominated North.  The country is also uncivilized in several other serious ways that I would like to see reformed.  Some look at India’s list of problems and say that they can’t afford a space program.

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai and Dr. Paine Sign a Satel...

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai and Dr. Paine Sign a Satellite Agreement – GPN-2002-000081 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earlier this week, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched a Mars probe which some call MOM (for Mars Orbital Mission) or Mangalyaan.  Earth’s oceans, Solar orbit and the Mars surface are littered with the bones of failed Mars spacecraft, so this probe still has a long way to go yet before anyone can call it an unqualified success.  Be that as it may, each milestone achieved makes history and forges a new future for India.  If it arrives in Mars orbit successfully, it will perform some new experiments that will add to the world’s knowledge-base regarding the atmosphere of Mars, though its primary mission is just developing and testing the capability to get there.

Here’s the thing.  This knowledge-base of which I speak is not just some numbers on a computer printout somewhere, it resides in the expert-base and technical infrastructure of the country.  The experience that they gain, the capabilities that they develop, and the reputation that they forge will be resources that other people the world over will need going forward.  Knowledge is power, and power is position and opportunity and in the new space race that positioning is more valuable than gold.  At a measly $69 Million U.S. for this mission, India is spending proverbial pennies on the dollar to possibly become the fourth Mars-capable country of the world.

Documentary INSAT 1B spacecraft STS-8 cargo, H...

Documentary INSAT 1B spacecraft, Space Shuttle STS-8 cargo, HGR. AO. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is the reality and anyone who thinks otherwise has blinders on.  Even while Mars is still nothing more than a scientific interest, knowledge about how to get there already brings positive returns on investment.  However, at some future, as yet unknown, date someone will discover something about Mars that is unique, valuable, and unavailable here on Earth.  It is…well, I don’t know yet, but it will trigger a fervor that historians will later liken to the Gold Rush in the United States.  Everyone with Mars experience will then become part of a new industrial revolution that will produce unimaginable wealth for the few infrastructures around the world that possess Mars expertise, and provide high-paying, high-tech jobs for millions of people.  India wants to be one of those few, and rightly so.

I hope that their probe achieves Mars orbit.  Such efforts cost such a small amount in comparison to their benefit.  Kudos to India for investing in their future…spending money paying people who will build a hope for the country and its poor.

Moons of Mars

Moons of Mars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

~ by Bill Housley on November 9, 2013.

3 Responses to “From India to Mars: The Voyage of #Mangalyaan”

  1. Hi Bill, Your comments on the Indian Mars Mission is one of the few positive views on the Indian attempt, I’ve come across. As a Western born & brought up descendant of great grand parents from India, I too fell easily into being a critique of things Indian and Indian deeds, until I commenced my maths/physics degree; I became almost overnight aware of the massive contribution Indian science and mathematics has given the world. I now see how much criticism that is levelled at India, (some I grant is valid), seems designed to belittle the country and its people. India is constantly being compared to China, much of it negatively. It appears the West hold China’s attempts as laudable where as similar Indian attempts as negative. For example, It sometimes seems that the Indian “ideals” of allowing poor people squatters rights over their slum land with all the “legalise that prevents their hovels from being bulldozed without appropriate authority” is scorned upon by Westerners, preferring the Chinese solution which is simply to clear the people out without due responsibility – something that Western folk would relentlessly rail against if this cavalier attitude was applied to them! Thank you for your views. K Sigamoney, QLD, Australia

  2. Hi Bill,

    Yeah, as a fan of India’s space program, I remember watching the 2008 launch of India’s lunar probe on the internet. After the successful launch, the scientists were all patting each other on the back, and hugging each other, and then they all lined up to make their congratulatory speeches at the podium nearby. I remember one scientist giving thanks to his colleagues and then to my delight he eagerly added that he looked forward to hopefully one day working on a mission to Mars. So even back then, no sooner had they launched their lunar probe, they were already looking for even farther places to aim at.

    I think SpaceX will soon make space travel much more commonplace, and Elon Musk clearly has his sights set on Mars. The Red Planet at least offers us another pasture, even if it’s not a green pasture. People like to spread out and find new opportunities.

    • Someday the opportunity of which you speak will need to be more than just scientific discovery. It will need to be cargo precious enough to be worth the cost of routine access to Mars. Mars One may have found one, for now, but something with longer legs will need to be found before the novelty of “Survivor: Mars” wears off.

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