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Monday, June 10, 2013

India's Space Programme - A Socially Responsible Endeavour

Maintaining a YouTube Channel with a special focus on Science & Technology, one often comes across comments posted by a too clever by half individual.

The common refrain of these smart alecks is that instead of "spending money on a Space programme", India must instead uplift the "trillions of poor, hungry Indians" [their words & figures (trillions)], indicating, perhaps, that the two are somehow mutually exclusive. These "concerned individuals" conveniently disregard the fact that the Indian Space Research Organisation [ISRO], has been earning the country millions in revenue, an upward trend with much greater earning potential, by building & launching satellites for International customers. In addition, the organisation's commercial arm, the Antrix Corporation Ltd, has for long been offering its other services & sharing satellite data on a commercial basis. Incidentally, all this earning has been made possible by investing in the development of the very technology that these individuals contend India must not spend resources developing.

The fact of the matter is that societal upliftment & development of the Indian society has been the primary motivating force for it to embark on this hi-tech path since the 1960s. This statement of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, considered the 'Pioneer of India's Space Programme' beautifully encapsulates this objective,

"Technology is not an objective to be aimed at, but a tool to be used for the benefit of the common man".

India conducted what was one of the largest sociological experiments in the world in the 1970s, with the initiation of the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment [SITE]. Using the services of an American satellite, the ATS-6, it began broadcasting educational programmes to around 2500 villages in India, putting forth the first step in undertaking a mass education initiative, thus setting the trend of leveraging Space for rural upliftment. Today, with its own INSAT-series satellites in orbit, it is able to broadcast two 24-hour Educational T.V. channels - DD Gyan Darshan 1&2, providing quality teaching remotely to even the most far-flung reaches of the country, mitigating the effect of absence of physical presence of quality teachers in those areas.

Data from ISRO's IRS series of satellites, on the other hand, with their precise early disaster warnings & weather forecasting, has been invaluable in saving several thousands of lives in regions faced with the prospect of a natural calamity striking. Much-needed data, like crop yield estimation, soil health & characteristics monitoring, among others, that aid agricultural planning are also obtained from these satellites. These areas of application - disaster management & agricultural production are especially significant to Indian concerns.

The two presentations, below, elaborate on these aspects of India's Space programme & the benefit being reaped as a result, reinforcing the criticality of Space technology in the Indian scenario.


These are, but, a few areas of application that have benefitted from the use of Space technology. Thus, given the enormous advantages the country has been reaping as a result of its endeavours in this field, it is, therefore, quite unintelligent to argue against India's goal of pursuing development of Space-related capabilities.


Related: ISRO planning to acquire Ka-Band Communication satellites for India [Space]