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Mars Mission is a Necessary Inspiration for the Nation
Sunday November 24, 2013 11:05 PM, Kaleem Kawaja,

India's November 5, Mangalayaan mission to planet Mars is an inspiration to the emerging Indian nation, that is rapidly breaking the ceiling of high science/ technology and progress that it had suffered from in the past due to a variety of reasons.

In the 19th century as the industrial revolution in Western nations took those nations to great heights of human civilizational achievements, despite its potential, India remained a mute spectator, thanks to its colonization.

The British colonizers ensured that neither higher science education, nor technical research, nor knowledge industry, nor modern industrial production, nor new technology blossomed in India. They kept all these growth areas in Britain.

It was only with the removal of those constraints that the newly sovereign Indian nation gradually resumed its pursuit of scholarship in science & technology, and Indian scientists & engineers spread to a large number of countries and are helping them.

For sure, the availability of modern consumer goods and infrastructure to all and the removal of poverty, should be a basic pursuit of current planning in India. But of-necessity on a parallel track India has to boost its high knowledge and high science/technology sector and push the frontiers in those fields.

Economist Jean Dreze makes an error in branding India's space program as "an elitist delusional quest for superpower status". In fact its purpose is to satisfy the intellectual hunger, scholarship thirst and aspiration for progress of its own people. Thus Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)'s missions have to be much more than weather and communication satellites in the earth orbit.

Missions like Chandrayaan to explore moon and Manglayaan to explore Mars and other planets have to be implemented. Having myself worked on NASA's Mars program in the last few years, I can appreciate the remarkable success that ISRO has achieved with its Mars mission. Today ISRO offers some of the most financially competitive and sought after satellite launch facilities in the world. ISRO also has the ability to create several spin-off technology industries in India, thereby helping the common and low income people.

I echo the views of Bharat Ratan space scientist VK Rao who recently said that playing weird and demagogic politics some politicians in India are unduly constraining the funding of the space and other high-science programs, and are holding back the high-knowledge potential of the nation. If politicians can help significantly reduce high corruption and needless populist programs, that can free up resources for much needed poverty alleviation.

Indeed India has unique abilities and a long legacy of high scholarship and pursuit of knowledge excellence, that for example several petrodollar rich countries of the middle-east do not have. Thus along with generation of wealth to eradicate poverty and consumer industries, the nation has to utilize its learning legacy and ability and devote adequate resources in the high-knowledge industries.

Kaleem Kawaja is an Indian-American activist based in Washington. He can be reached at



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