Intro : Space research and exploration is the area where India has already demonstrated its great potential and this potential only needs to be exploited further.
The space research programme of India is an outright success story right from the point of inception. If there is a sector in which India has shown its excellence in unmistakable terms, it is the space exploration sector. India's foray into the space research area started with the successful launching of indigenous satellites of INSAT series, which have served the nation remarkably well in surveillance, education and security domains. Commissioned in 1983, INSAT is a series of multipurpose geo stationery satellites launched by ISRO and is the largest domestic communication system in the Asia Pacific Region. It is a joint venture of the Department of Space, Department of Telecommunications, India Meteorological Department, All India Radio and Doordarshan. The overall coordination and management of INSAT system rests with the Secretary-level INSAT Coordination Committee. After the success of the INSAT series, the Indian space programme has not looked back.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is a government organisation with certain unique features. Its uniqueness lies in its members' total commitment and dedication to the tasks in hand, its super efficient working that shows in its projects successfully completed at costs which are several times lower than the global average costs. A bright case in point is the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) which was accomplished on September 24, 2014. The mission cost 74 million USD, which is a fraction of the 671 million USD spent by NASA on its MAVEN Mars Mission.
Let us take a look on some of the success notes and relevant statistical figures pertaining to India's space programme. India's space programme is one of the most cost effective in the word, as exemplified by the Mars Orbiter Mission. We have 30 spacecrafts set in different orbital paths. India has launched 40 satellites for 19 countries and has the potential to serve as the world’s prime launch pad. ISRO is developing cutting edge technologies for interplanetary exploratory missions who have great scope in operational missions and satellite navigation. The technologies developed by ISRO and licensed to industries for commercialisation include multi-layer printed antenna technology and DDV 100 Resin system. ISRO is the only organisation of Central Government that is perhaps not riddled with corruption and inefficiency. Its excellent working is an object lesson for other central government organisations which have become notorious for shoddy working and corruption. Space exploration and research rightfully finds a place in the 25 sectors identified for strong focus under PM Modi's ‘Make in India’ programme. The government has allowed FDI up to 74 per cent in establishment and operation of satellites.
There are certain steps that need to be taken for taking the space research and exploratory programmes and also the commercial satellite launching programmes to still greater heights of success and achievement.
1. Identify more areas of R&D and commercial satellite launching and restrict FDI to 49 per cent for the co struction of laboratories and launching pads, which are not items of capital intensive nature.
2. Forge JVs with other countries like Russia, USA or Germany in space exploration areas for the purpose of technology import and induction. Encourage exchange programmes for collaboration between Indian and foreign scientists. Scientists engaged in space exploration stay and stick there out of mere passion.
3. Delink the salaries and perquisites of ISRO scientists and staff from central government pay structure. They should be given much higher salaries and perks, comparable with the best in the world. This expedient step is necessary for induction and retention of best Indian brains for indigenous space programmes.
4. Liberally read and draw upon the rich scriptural knowledge base of India for fresh and new ideas in the field of space exploration and satellites. Space research and exploration is the area where India has already demonstrated its great potential and this potential only needs to be exploited further.
(The writer is a senior columnist)