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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why India MUST pursue the development its own, credible Space-based capabilities? 01

In a couple of hours from now India would become only the sixth country in the world to have successfully propelled a man-made object towards our closest celestial neighbor – the Moon. The country is gripped with excitement and anticipation of this momentous occasion. If not for anything else, just seeing their tax money reaching a place farther than anything Indian has ever reached thus far is cause enough hook people in.

People whose earlier association with the Moon had only been restricted to quoting loony lunar poetry in an effort to get laid have been similarly gripped by this surge of pride and excitement.

In midst of all this Nationalism, voices from certain quarters have expressed their reservations about such pursuits. They have questioned the rationale behind the need of an admittedly developing country to make its presence felt on the Moon. The justification often hinges on the argument that  a country like India needs to first address and resolve issues like poverty and food supply before venturing to fulfilling such ambitions.

Though I am inclined to believe that their argument does hold some merit, the arguments supporting such projects would simply outweigh these oppositions by a long margin.

Trying to list down some of the most obvious and compelling reasons for India to develop such capabilities.

Mineral wealth:

One fact that is never disputed – mineral resources on our planet is finite and is being depleted at an alarming rate. In order to sustain life, it is imperative to discover new sources of mineral to feed our industries.

The Chandrayaan-1 mission has one principal objective – to locate and map the mineral reserves present on the Moon. Considering the Moon was once believe to be a part of the Earth (3 of the 4 answers of the origin of the moon has Earth playing a major role in the Moon’s formation), it is expected to have the much needed mineral deposits in around the same proportion as that on Earth. The Helium-3 isotope, a rarity on Earth & an ideal fuel for the generation of energy using Nuclear fusion is also expected to be present in significant quantities on the Moon. 4 of the 5 indigenously developed payloads that is being sent by ISRO [a total of 11 payloads will be carried] will be used to gather data that would address these issues.

The Hyper Spectral Imager (HySI) will map the lunar body for mineral resources. The data obtained from the Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) and Lunar Laser Ranging Instrument (LLRI) would be used to prepare a detailed three-dimensional map of the lunar surface with accurate representation of its topography. This would than act as reference guides for future missions when landings on the Moon’s surface would be achieved. Similarly the Moon Impact Probe(MIP) is being used to test and validate the technology that would be needed when we actually land on the surface with some significant presence. The payloads of the other countries will perform similar tasks and their data too shall be available for our analysis and use.

Critics argue that the Moon has been explored completely in all respects by the preceding missions and the Indian mission would just be a duplication of efforts. These claims are, however, not being substantiated with satisfactory evidences. For the sake of argument let us assume that this claim is valid and the complete mineralogical mapping of the Moon’s surface has already been performed by the other countries. Would it, however, not be naive of us to expect the other countries to share the complete authentic data with us. These countries would be even more hesitant to release the necessary data into the public domain, knowing fully well that countries such as ours are developing the necessary technology to use such data for fulfilling our needs.

So in spite of the data already being generated by the other missions, we are left with no other option but to gather our own data for use in the future when we would have the required technology in place to put it to use.

 

Defense:

China shoots down one of its own defunct satellites orbiting in space....USA renews its interest in developing a Space-based defense platform.

Such News appearing in the public media are a precursor of the things to come. Satellites form the very backbone of a Technology-aware nation. Almost every aspect of the life of an individual in such a country is influenced or touched upon by the orbiting satellites above. The country’s communication network, the guidance system of its missiles, the search for potential oil fields [liquid gold] or mineral deposits....everything that is needed to sustain life as we know it is dependant on the smooth functioning these satellites. Any harm done to these satellites would have serious ramifications on life  back on Earth.

In such a scenario, it should be deemed necessary that India develops a credible deterrent to thwart back any such attempts on our assets in space. Developing a Space-based defense platform, is the need of the hour for India considering the increasingly hostile posturing by Chine with its repeated incursions into our sovereign territory. This very neighbor had exhibited its ability to take down targets in the outer space.

Though taking down a satellite requires the development of Defense technology, protecting a satellite would require the development of an additional Space-based technology.

Only when Power respects Power, will you have lasting peace between the two Powers.

 

Colonization or Space-based living arrangement:

Our population is increasingly rapidly, the Earth is becoming polluted at an alarming rate - living conditions on Earth is deteriorating and showing no signs of improvement. It is therefore becoming necessary to make plans for the future for developing alternate living arrangements.

Given the knowledge and resources we have, the ability to colonize a favorable planet or build a suitable living arrangement in Space must be developed and ready for implementation if and when the time comes. Such a need arising some 100 years from now should not be very hard to fathom.

I foresee such a venture to be  collaborative effort between partner countries, pooling in their resources and knowledge towards the common cause. India with its second largest population [probably largest by then] would have a lot to lose if denied access to such an arrangement. In order to be part of such a project, we would be expected to contribute towards the technology of this project.

Developing competency in Space Technology would pave way for the continuation of our existence in the future.

(Anybody trying to brush off this argument as ludicrous need only to look at the ISS – the process of developing, testing and validating the Technology has already begun.)........

You may read Part 02 here

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