It’s time for In­dia’s gi­ant leap

Mint ST - - FIRST -

It was a sig­nif­i­cant date in the his­tory of the In­dian space pro­gramme. On 21 No­vem­ber 1963, the launch of the first sound­ing rocket— as­sem­bled in­side a church build­ing—from the Equa­to­rial Rocket Launch­ing Sta­tion in Thumba, Ker­ala, marked the be­gin­ning of our space jour­ney. It re­mains a mile­stone. Fifty-five years later, the In­dian Space Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion (Isro) is work­ing to­wards our sec­ond lu­nar ex­plo­ration mis­sion, Chan­drayaan-2, next year, and more im­por­tantly, our first ever manned space mis­sion, Ga­ganyaan, in which a three-mem­ber crew will spend seven days in space in low earth or­bit (LEO). This mis­sion is ex­pected to lift off by 2022 and cost bil­lions of ru­pees. How spe­cial is this? Quite spe­cial.

You only need to look back at the long, distin­guished his­tory of manned space flight to un­der­stand the thrill and achieve­ment that ac­com­pa­nies it.with the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion (ISS) com­plet­ing 20 years in or­bit on 20 No­vem­ber, we de­cided to make it the fo­cal point of our space spe­cial. Nasa calls the ISS one of the most am­bi­tious in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tions ever at­tempted and the most po­lit­i­cally com­plex space ex­plo­ration pro­gramme ever un­der­taken. As­tro­nauts from 18 coun­tries (and count­ing) have vis­ited the space sta­tion so far. It is a mar­vel of tech­nol­ogy and the re­sult of years of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the sci­en­tific re­search com­mu­nity and in­ter­na­tional space agen­cies.

There are, in fact, talks of send­ing an In­dian as­tro­naut to the ISS for a short train­ing mis­sion in 2022. Hope­fully, we can one day have the re­sources and the re­quired tech­ni­cal ad­vance­ments to be­come one of the par­tic­i­pat­ing na­tions in the ISS and other fu­ture space sta­tion mis­sions.

The good news is, the signs are ex­tremely en­cour­ag­ing. As you will read in this is­sue, In­di­ans are not only lead­ing crit­i­cal space mis­sions slated for the near fu­ture but also mak­ing a mark in areas such as space

Write to the Lounge ed­i­tor de­sign. Some of the bright­est ideas for new and minia­ture satel­lite de­signs (Cube­sats) in re­cent years have emerged from In­dia. We have also looked at some key his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ences of In­dia’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in space re­search, dat­ing back to as far as the 1960s.

Our fas­ci­na­tion with space goes be­yond the realm of sci­ence and ex­tends into pop cul­ture. Our sto­ries look at how movies and art have shaped our un­der­stand­ing of space and how space de­bris is be­ing reimag­ined with the help of in­ge­nious de­sign so­lu­tions.

In the vast­ness of space, what makes us unique is our de­sire to know more about the uni­verse we in­habit. So, our quest to reach the far­thest cor­ners of the cos­mos shouldn’t stop. The fields of in­ter­plan­e­tary travel, space col­o­niza­tion and deep-space voyages have so much to of­fer. We can only im­prove and pick up pace. While ad­dress­ing the In­dia-united States Con­fer­ence on Space Sci­ence Ap­pli­ca­tion and Com­merce in New Delhi in 2004, the late A.P.J. Ab­dul Kalam, one of the key minds be­hind the in­cep­tion of In­dia’s space dream, had said: “Think­ing be­yond our planet is an es­sen­tial trait. The thought it­self el­e­vates the per­son. The per­son is trans­formed into a creative state. Cre­ativ­ity in­deed is the foun­da­tion of dis­cov­ery and in­ven­tions.”

From in­no­vat­ing with lim­ited re­sources in the 1960s to launch­ing a record 104 satel­lites in a sin­gle mis­sion last year, Isro and In­dia have come a long way in this space jour­ney. With Chan­drayaan-2 and Ga­ganyaan very much in our line of sight, the only way ahead is for­ward. As Neil Arm­strong (played by Ryan Gosling) said in the re­cent Hol­ly­wood movie First Man, “When you get a dif­fer­ent van­tage point, it changes your per­spec­tive.” Here’s hop­ing that this space spe­cial gives you a new van­tage point to not only look at In­dia but the world’s jour­ney to ex­plore space.

Nitin Sreed­har Is­sue Ed­i­tor

anin­dita.g@livemint.com

anin­ditaghose

A com­pos­ite night-time view of In­dia and sur­round­ing areas in 2016.

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