As dusk settled in the Satish Dhawan Centre, Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, on 22nd October, there was palpable excitement and electrifying tension in the air. Many had their hearts in their mouths. Suddenly the fading blue sky was ablaze with a dazzling light of yellow, flames erupted and there was a thundering noise. Gradually and steadily, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s first lunar mission, the Chandrayaan-1 leapt towards the sky, propelled by tons of burning hot gas. Thousands watched on television, and the whole country was filled with pride as the ISRO declared a successful launch, perhaps one of the most important landmarks in Indian Space Research.

Nearly a month later, there have been repercussions due to the historic moment. India has, once again, proved that it is a major superpower in the making. The President and Prime Minister congratulated G. Madhavan Nair, ISRO’s head, and all the scientists involved in the amazing feat. The world watched as praise and awe was directed towards our nation. The people of India also shared in the joy. But there are a lot of issues that this historic feat has raised.

Considering the national issues first, I feel that many of the country’s poor and destitute would have asked, “Why are they spending millions on space research even though a proportion of their population is below the poverty line?” It is indeed questionable, whether the money being spent on space research is justified. Should this money go in helping the poor or towards research? I feel that the issue is often mistreated.

The alleviation of poverty and investment in the future are not mutually exclusive, but rather, they are perfectly complementary. A long-term investment, like in research and development funding, actually secures our population from poverty and hunger. With growing emphasis on science and technology in today’s world, I feel like every other country India should invest heavily in R&D. The point that is often overlooked is that it is only with investment in research and technology that India’s economy can grow. With growth, wealth will come, which will lift the millions in our nation out of poverty and guarantee them good and prosperous lives.

Looking at the world picture, I feel that with our launch of the Chandrayaan has spent some chills down the spines of our rivals and reminded all the countries that we are a nation to be reckoned with. Considering India as a poor nation and “a land of snake charmers” is foolery today. India has shown, with tremendous economic growth and now with envious space research programmes, that it holds a respectable position in the world order. NASA, the space organisation of the US commended the Indian team’s efforts and looks forward to more cooperation.

But there are also nations that are a bit troubled with our success. China has recently launched a satellite of its own, called Chang’e-1. It is looking to match our progress in space research and has declared that a second satellite will be coming up in 2011. Though diplomats on both sides claim that relations are good, border issues of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh still remain unresolved. Given the fact that India and China are regional emerging superpowers, rivalry seems inevitable. The Chinese declared a war on India in 1962 when Nehru was PM. The Tibet crisis also makes matters worse. I feel that dialogue is quintessential to regional stability and peace. India and China should work hand in hand to improve the situation.

I feel that the lunar mission has done more than sending an impact probe on the moon’s surface and raising the Tricolour on the moon. This success of India’s determination and skill has kindled the flame in the youth of the nation. People will be inspired to be future scientists and engineers to take the nation to new heights. The ISRO has become a major space research organisation and more scientists will join ISRO rather than going abroad to join NASA. It will help keep the amazing local talent at home and make them a part of rising India. As incumbent economies like the US falter in the global crisis and India continues to grow, it will make NRIs think that India is not weak and a bright future awaits the great nation. Personally, I feel it is times like these that make us proud of being Indian and it inspires us to play our own parts in the upcoming of our country.

In conclusion, the recent success of Chandrayaan has opened up the space era once more and a second Space Race is on. The domination of the US and former Soviet Union is long over. India has joined the elite club of space nations namely: US, EU, Russia, Japan and China. Each nation is sure to invest highly in this race and it must be ensured that India is not left behind if we are to make sure that our forefathers’ dreams of a prosperous and strong India are realised in the future.

Sainyam Gautam

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