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Mars Orbiter Mission (M.O.M.): India’s Quest for the Beyond

Posted by Shreyans Jain Wednesday, 27 November 2013 0 comments

The ambitious Mars Orbiter Mission (M.O.M.) of India has been subjected to severe scrutiny and contention. The relevance of such science missions and the huge expenditure incurred to undertake them has often been questioned. While India is making an open attempt to beat its Asian, rival China, in exploring the space, our honourable politicians are finding themselves in a helpless state from wriggling out of trivial quagmires on provision of toilets for the country. Not only have they questioned the profligacy of  India’s quest for the Red Planet but have also raised serious concerns on the utilisation of taxpayer’s money at a time when the country is still struggling with maladies like abject poverty, malnutrition, underdevelopment and so on. What an irony! Those who disguise themselves as lawmakers and squander our precious resources are the first to enlighten the world with their unsolicited views on projects like the Mars Orbiter Mission (M.O.M.). those who marauder the nation’s coffers and burn large holes in the pockets of the exchequer by means of several scams and scandals and later subvert the law to avoid prosecution are the ones who accuse such scientific missions of galloping whopping amounts of taxpayer’s money which could otherwise be used to ‘mitigate’ poverty!

The Rs. 450 crores mission is not merely a demonstration of technology. As Dr. K. Radhakrishnan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO, Bangalore) himself said, “The Mars Orbiter Mission (M.O.M.) is a historical necessity, since after having helped find water on the Moon, looking for signatures of life on Mars is a natural progression”. Indeed! It is a moment of great pride and exhilaration for the nation, an occasion for the Indians to feel the same ecstasy that the Americans felt when Neil Arm Strong, an American national was the first to land on Moon. 

The Mars Orbiter Mission (M.O.M.) is certainly a giant leap forward and a stellar example of the dexterity and technical expertise that Indian scientists possess that has caused an upheaval in the world. Gone are the days when India would approach Russia or other counties of the world and part with a considerable amount of foreign exchange to launch its satellite from foreign land. The 21st century belongs to Asia and to India in particular. The successful launch of the indigenously designed satellite based on cryogenic engine technology is not only a great boost to the national pride but is also another feather in India’s cap. The successful launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has acquired even greater world attention especially after Japan’s unsuccessful attempt in 1998 China’s recent failure in  2011 when its maiden Mars orbiter Yinghuo-I piggybacked on the Russian satellite Phobos Grunt, ended in disaster after its failure to be boosted into space.  India may not be racing with anyone but it has surely acquired a leading position.

To some diehard critics of the Indian Mars Orbiter Mission (M.O.M.), the recent Phailin cyclone in Odisha should be an eye opener where the loss of life was a mere 44. In comparison, about 10,000 people lost their lives in the supercyclone of 1999 and 3,00,000 people died in the Sunderbans and Bangladesh in the Bhola cyclone of  1970. The primary difference now is that India today has nearly half a dozen satellites, all made by ISRO, keeping a constant vigil on the motion of winds and ocean currents. Undoubtedly, for every rupee spent, ISRO has given more than two in return. None of the present cutting edge technology would have been possible had the government heeded the advice of its critics who consider India’s investment in space programmes a waste of resources.

The investment being made in such missions is significantly less than the total fiscal budget of the government and only a small fraction of the amounts squandered by unscrupulous politicians in various scams and scandals. By juxtaposing such a high return yielding mission with contentious issues like overwhelming poverty, these self-styled critics are not only trying to disparage the efforts of the Indian scientists who have dedicated themselves to the service of India, but are also discouraging the emerging and the future generation of scientists from undertaking research and development projects at indigenous levels. 

We must ask ourselves, “Isn’t the Mars Orbiter Mission (M.O.M.) a tiny step for a giant leap?”


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