Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chandrayaan 1 Lunar Probe: India’s Pride Child or Burden?

Is India’s Chandrayaan 1 Lunar probe nothing more than an ill-conceived pride-child given that a significant portion of their population is currently languishing in poverty?

By: Vanessa Uy

Sometimes I wonder why social justice campaigners unfairly target a nation’s space program as money that could be spent better on poverty alleviation programs. But isn’t space exploration a kind of poverty alleviation program in itself? I mean is anyone curious enough to find out if carbonaceous meteoric materials make excellent organic fertilizers?

Despite costing 80 million US dollars to the Indian taxpayer, Chandrayaan 1 boasts the latest in advanced digital-based optical mapping technology with a 5-meter resolution optical camera, plus the latest generation of instruments to analyze the chemical composition of the Moon. And the mission had already passed several of its intended missions with flying colors despite being sent on a fuel-saving gravitational assist trajectory that unfortunately delays the craft’s arrival to the Moon.

Critics might say that the Chandrayaan 1 Lunar mission is an extravagance that an emerging economy like India can ill afford, despite of ambitions plans by India for a manned Lunar mission 30 or 40 years from now. But Portugal didn’t became a 16th Century superpower by complaining how poor it is every time the country’s “Royal Treasury” finance yet another exploratory missions into the “New World”. An Indian space program will surely generate jobs for their local underutilized Ph.D. s, engineers and other people with technical training as opposed to sending them to more technically advanced Western nations like they do today. An Indian space program could also create a regional “fringe benefit” for the countries “poorer” neighbors like job opportunities to people from Bangladesh.

An Indian astronaut walking on the surface of the Moon could serve as an “unbiased witness” to finally dispel the “Conspiracy Theorists” belief in that the manned Lunar program of NASA back in the 1960’s and 1970’s are just nothing more than staged PR stunts. Done on some non-descript movie soundstage in Burbank, California (or is that Hollywood?).