Saturday, September 27, 2014

India’s Mars Shot

An editorial in The New York Times comments on a determined effort which sends a satellite to the red planet and makes a nation proud.
In successfully launching an orbiter to Mars this week, India’s space program demonstrated what’s possible when a determined group of people put their minds to solving a complex problem.
India’s Mangalyaan, or “Mars craft” in Hindi, is not the first orbiter to reach the Red Planet — the United States, the Soviet Union and the European Space Agency have previously achieved that feat — but it has done so in its first attempt and on a shoestring budget of $74 million. (NASA’s Maven mission to Mars cost $671 million).
Furthermore, India is the first Asian nation to reach Mars. The Indian satellite will remain in an elliptical orbit around Mars to study the planet’s surface and atmosphere.
There is always a certain amount of nationalism attached to space missions, and Indians are justifiably proud of the achievement of the Indian Space Research Organization. Indian officials have said they are hoping to build on the success of the Mars Orbiter Mission, nicknamed MOM, by landing a rover on the Moon and sending humans into space.
The mission has its critics. Some argue that India should be spending the money it is devoting to space exploration on food, shelter and other basic necessities for millions of Indians who can’t afford them. The nation certainly needs to spend more on those and other needs, but the space program has benefited the country in many ways, improving its ability to forecast the weather and connecting remote areas through satellite communications. More broadly, the Mars mission can serve as an inspiration to political leaders, scientists and Indian citizens to take on big problems and solve them in creative ways.

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