A long time back I wrote a post criticizing the need for Chandrayaan. A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of attending a talk on “Chandrayaan and Beyond” by Dr. P. J. Bhat, a senior scientist at ISRO. The talk was about how Chandrayaan conceived and the technical hurdles faced in putting the lunar module into orbit around the moon.
A student asked a very pertinent question – Considering the various problems the common man of India is facing like hunger and poverty, how can the crores of rupees spent on the mission be justified?
The answer actually brought back memories of a essay topic I came across preparing for the GRE. Should countries focus their attention on solving the problems of today? Or should they try to find solutions to problems we would face in the future. The answer I came up with was that the problems we face today are becuase of negligence of governments yesterday. In order to not let history repeat itself, we must focus our attention towards anticipating future problems and try to solve them.
The Chandrayaan question had a similar answer. Every major technology we use today has in some way or the other descended from space exploration technology. Cutting edge really is so out there. So eventually the common man will reap the benefits of this mission.
The other point is that while we can imagine man zipping across the galaxy and conquering space, it has to begin with a small step. We are still not so advanced a species that we share our technology with everyone else. Commercial considerations still play the major role in deciding our priorities. If India has to keep pace with other countries on all fronts, this is the only way to do it.
A great success like Chandrayaan which has been achieved at a relatively low cost and a very low rate of failure is something to be proud of. Until we develop a world government and have one body deciding every future aspect of space exploration, Chandrayaan is the way to go.