It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's just ISRO soaring high! This week, Whack & Epified,
help you decide if ISRO deserves any credit at all.. Or if it's all just castles in space.
ISRO, or the Indian Space Research Organization, has been our national space agency since its
birth in 1969. 46 years on and ISRO has done quite a few
things right. They have set up INSAT, or Indian National Satellite System, which transmits
all your favourite TV shows, apart from a thousand other things. The other satellite
system, Indian Remote Sensing System, scans every meter of the ground - quite literally
- to find resources like underground water. Its success has reportedly saved the government
a $100 million in drill boring expenses. And speaking of discovering water, ISRO's first
ever lunar probe even found some of it on the moon in 2008! Now Talk about having a
thirst for knowledge. But far from being a national icon, ISRO is not even liked by some.
They claim India should have kept its feet on the ground and dealt with problems of poverty
and hunger first, before spending money on space flights of fancy. The argument goes
that the benefits of the space program to the common man don't justify the huge investment.
Those complaints got louder and louder while we celebrated ISRO's amazing Mars Orbiter
success. Not only was it the cheapest mission to Mars, but the only one to enter the Martian
atmosphere at the first attempt. Well, we Indians have always been good at entrance
exams, so. except this time it wasn't just our resident critics, but even some international
voices who decided to underplay ISRO's efforts. New York Times carried a pretty racist cartoon..
while China they just decided to ignore it. Maybe they were taken by surprise by ISRO's success
in doing what no one else had managed to do. And they did it at about 1/10th the cost of
NASA's Mars Mission too..Now how's that for cheap & effective? India's space venture on
a shoestring' was thus made possible not only by less expensive engineering talent willing
to work around the clock, but also by using ingenious improvisation to cope successfully
with resource constraints and exceptionally tight timelines. ISRO built the final model
of the orbiter from the start instead of building a series of iterative models, as NASA does.
They limited the number of ground tests. They used components and building blocks from earlier
and concurrent missions. They also circumvented the lack of a rocket powerful enough to launch
the satellite directly out of the earth's gravitational pull by having the satellite
orbit the earth for a month in order to build up enough speed to break free from the earth's gravitational
pull. Now, how's that for a good old Indian Jugaad. But most importantly, it showed off
Indian space technology to the world. It showcased the quality of ISRO's indigenous launch vehicles,
which also carry satellites to space for a living..In fact, last year ISRO earned $ 200
million carrying other people's satellites for them. They even set some sort of a record
when an ISRO launch vehicle carried 10 satellites..the most ever managed. All this was achieved after being
allocated less money than most programs in the budget, including India's foreign aid
to Bhutan' Even less than the amount used to keep Air India afloat. By some estimates,
ISRO now earns about $2 for every dollar that was invested by the government.. Clearly, this is one part
of the government that DOES work.The brilliant scientists and engineers at ISRO are the biggest
heroes. Not only have they mastered space technology,which they did it while barely
making any money' getting paid a tiny fraction of what their peers make in the rest of the
world..It seems they are driven by what Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the father of Indian Space
Research, said at the founding of ISRO: 'If we are to play a meaningful role nationally,
and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in application of advanced
technologies to the real problems of man and society'..
So to all the naysayers.. I would like to say, ISRO is not only a national asset.. It's
a national virtue.. It is living proof of our respect for knowledge and the will to
contribute to humanity.. We, at Epified & Whack, will continue to cheer
on ISRO.. as it plans follow up mission to the moon in 2017' maybe even one to Venus'
Shoot for the stars, guys!!