Space Research Projects: Is it Waste of Money?

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With the landing of ‘Vikram’ & ‘Pragyan’ from Chandrayaan-2 on the unexplored surface of Moon on September 6, 2019, India’s space mission has got another major boost in achieving high standards in space research and joining the well accomplished countries exploring space. A successful landing makes India the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon after the space agencies of the USA, USSR and China achieved this feat.

Launched at a cost which is less than half as compared to the cost incurred by USA and USSR, India’s Chandrayaan mission is a great space research project and may not be termed as wastage of money as it will help in exploring what has not been explored till now. 

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What is Chandrayaan-2?

Chandrayaan-2 is India’s second lunar exploration mission after Chandrayaan-1. The Chandrayaan-2 was developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and was launched on July 22, 2019 at 2.43 PM (IST) to the Moon from the 2nd Launchpad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre. The space craft was launched by a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III (GSLV Mk III). Chandrayaan-2 consists of a lunar orbiter, a lander (Vikram), a lunar rover named ‘Pragyan’. All of these were developed in India.

 

The date of landing of lander ‘Vikram’ and the rover ‘Pragyan’ is September 6, 2019. It lands on the near side of the Moon in the south polar region. The wheeled Pragyan rover will move on the lunar surface and will perform on-site chemical analysis for 14 days (one lunar day). It can relay data to Earth through the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter and lander, which were launched together on the same rocket. The orbiter will perform its mission for one year in a circularized lunar polar orbit of 100 × 100 km 

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Objective of Chndrayaan-2

The main objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to map the location and abundance of lunar water. Chandrayaan-2 will demonstrate the ability to soft land on surface of the Moon and operate a robotic rover on its surface. The Moon Craft-2 (Chandrayaan-2) will study lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere, signatures of hydroxyl and water ice.  The orbiter will map the lunar surface and help to prepare 3D maps of it and the onboard radar will also map the surface while studying the water ice in the south polar region and thickness of the lunar regolithon surface.

 

India launched Chandrayaan-1 in October 2008. The Chandrayaan-1 operated till August 2009.

 

The mission was a major boost to India's space program, as India researched and developed its own technology in order to explore the Moon. The vehicle was inserted into lunar orbit on 8 November 2008.

 

An important GD Topic

One of the important GD and WAT topics which is consistently placed in final selection round by IIMs, FMS, IIFT, XLRI and other top MBA colleges is the spending on Space Research and its relevance for the human welfare and impact on environment. Below is shared the solved GD topic on Space Research Projects and their relevance for the development.

 

In today’s age of inevitable trade wars, battles are fought in the name of technology especially the space technology. In the cold war era space research projects saw a giant amount of money and manpower being pumped by the then USSR and USA not for the purpose of healing humanity but to compete, to compete for the throne of space superpower for the world shall be ruled by the one capturing the universe. 

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Space Projects: Promised Much, Delivered Little

Space research projects throughout history have promised so much and yet have brought so little direct benefits in proportion to mankind. NASA alone has an annual budget of a whopping $21.5 Billion while healthcare in India with a population of a billion more than the United States sees an investment of only around $14 Billion for 2019.  

 

India spending 1200 Crores on Space Research

India the largest democracy has around 150 million people living in poverty and yet it spends a tremendous sum of around 12000 crores on space research, too much for an economy which is still developing.

 

Humanity and life on earth is supposed to be the first priority and the world powers first must ensure fulfillment of basic human needs like hunger, education and better healthcare than living their fantasies of sending man on Mars.

 

Beginning of Space Race: How it Evolved

The classic space race began after the World War II between the then superpowers USA and USSR. The purpose was to dominate in spaceflight capability which was deemed necessary for national security and symbolized ideological superiority and thus pioneering efforts in launching artificial satellites and space probes of Moon, Venus and Mars took place. Later other developed countries like China, Japan, Canada some European countries and India too jumped in with high ambitions and expenditure.

 

Spending on Space Research Should Be Reduced: Key Reasons

  • Humanity is suffering at the cost of arbitrary technological developments. There are greater problems to solve than worrying about things multiple light years far away from earth.
  • The earth needs environmental and ecological sustainability for survival of human kind, flora and fauna. Most for our technological advancements have ruined the environment on the earth. The synergy of economy and environment is required. Feeding the bellies of millions of starving children is more important than going to the Moon for the hundredth time.
  • Space exploration is a man’s fantasy. It is a desire more than his actual need which is to ensure healthy lifestyles with all basic facilities not only for himself but also for as many as he is accountable to. It is however, not being executed with even decent success rate upto this date.
  • Funds should be directed from space adventures to environmental protection, education, healthcare and social security so that we make the earth a better place to live than going to Mars.
  • The idea of settlement and living on Moon or Mars, rather than the Earth, is neither ecologically not economically feasible.
  • Cutting part of funds from space research budget and directing it to more sensitive fronts like agriculture and research in sustainable energy and environmental friendly industrialization especially for developing countries like India is the need of the hour. Transferring half the space budget to these sectors in appropriate proportions would only make much sense.
  • In a major development, the private sector is showing keen interest in space projects and has started considering it as a potential industry to reap profits. Some of the key players luring the people on space tourism are Spacex, Bigelow Aerospace, Virgin Galactic.  Now the government machinery need not pump huge money into, at least, space exploration and space tourism. On the other hand, this huge saving could be diverted for human welfare.

Space Research: Importance is More

There are important reasons for spending on space research as many path-breaking discoveries have been made as a result of space exploration.

  • Employability has been generated due to this industry in significant numbers. It has helped man look beyond and quench his desire of exploring the environment around him.
  • The plastic industry came to existence only because of space scientists and so was the internet and other cutting edge technologies developed. It has empowered man to go beyond the material. NASA is responsible for a lot of useful inventions and innovations which has benefited life on earth including LEDs, water purification systems, artificial limbs and even computer mouses.
  • Crucial technologies like meteorology, telecommunications and broadcasting could only flourish with the advent of improved space technological research. Satellites today are like the wheels on which the vehicle of modern life runs. They play a pivotal role in civilian and military earth observation, communication and weather forecasting and electronic broadcasting.
  • ISRO India’s space agency with its unique achievements have touched the life of a common man of India by successfully conducting the Mars Orbiter Mission and the Moon Orbiter Mission.
  • The development of Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) and  The Indian Remote Sensing Satellites (IRS) System providing inputs for management of natural resources and various developmental projects across the country using space based imagery have helped India in realizing the dream of self-sufficiency and in getting widespread international acclaim.

The Road Ahead

Although the space research venture has benefitted mankind we may fail to answer whether it has yet revolutionized a human life in proportion to the astronomical amount of money already spent for this purpose.

 

There will always be arguments, yet Governments need supporting space research as it will open more avenues for mankind. However, it is also important to cater to the urgent and essential human needs. The superpowers also need to chalk out the way to check the space race otherwise the day is not far when man may get lost running the space race.  

 

The ways and means on spending less and achieving more on space missions, space research must be explored. India had set an example on its mission to Mars. As against USA, India was able to contain the cost of the project at Rs.450 Crore (Rs.4.5 bn), less than one sixth of US$455 million earmarked for a Mars probe by NASA.

 

Accordingly, a much more calculated, organized and rational approach must be adopted when dealing with the subject of space research so that it contributes in healing human lives directly not in killing them indirectly. 

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