India’s Space program has now became the darling of the nation, thanks to the outstanding media coverage of their recent achievement. Their accomplishments of sending space probe into Mars’ orbit and launching 20 satellites in a single mission are quickly placing their space expertise prowess as a new source of pride.
However, is the program itself justified? In what way does the space program yield benefit for the relevant stakeholders?
Indian Space Program is Worth It
Space Program Stimulates National Development
Seeing through the lens of consequentialism, the investment of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) into space activities is justified due to the benefits it contributes to the national development of India.
One of the main objectives of ISRO is to develop space technology and apply it to complete a variety of national tasks. ISRO started in 1962 and since then have collaborated with numerous industries to facilitate its various space programs. Some of the pertinent industries benefited from over 300 new and advanced technologies which resulted from the transfer of technological know-how including the electronics and computer based systems, mechanical and materials, sensors, and chemical sectors.
Other than stimulating the industries, the ISRO space commercialisation also boosts research and education of space technology in local universities and research centres. In recent years, many international aerospace manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus have set foot in Bangalore, India. Boeing has built their Boeing Research and Technology Center in Bangalore in 2009 and in 2017 has announced to set up Boeing India Engineering and Technology Center (BIETC). This will keep stimulating the productivity of not only the aviation and aerospace company but also Indian people consequently.
It’s Low Cost And Yielded Astounding Result – Obviously A Good Idea!
Despite of the previous argument, the flock of 104 satellites had created a “money squandering” hype around the world, criticising India for being too captivated by the pursuit of world records while acknowledging the fact that the economic downturn of India is indisputable. Is that really the case though?
With the recent launch, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that “India has the potential to be the launch service provider of the world and must work towards this goal.” The statement shows that ISRO have the capacity of dominating the space market with a low-cost technology without compromising the standards. Taking the aforementioned advantage, they succeed on launching their Mangalyaan satellite to Mars for the total cost of $75 million in 2014, only a mere fraction of what NASA spent for the same mission with a whopping $671million.
With the minimal capital expenditure, India would be able to extract huge profit from the $3 to $4 billion niche market for data imaging about climate, topography and defense. Hence, the hype mentioned earlier could be rebutted by the fact that the return of investment from the space industry will actually benefit the economic growth of India.
As a consequence of the positive revenue stream, it is a common-sense to conceive that space exploration brings money to India, not jeopardizing it. The low-cost technology had given India a competitive advantage towards their rivals in the market, hence returning promising social benefits to the country.
Indian Space Exploration Doesn’t Deserve the National Focus
Earth First, Space Second
The positioning of India, as one of prominent player in space activities, done by the government is in fact – misplaced on a macro, global scale.
We should all take a step back and ask “what would the end point of space activity and exploration even be”? Immediately the image of large spaceships carrying millions of people colonizing planets came to mind. At least that’s what the recent blockbuster movies always portray of as the peak of human progress.
That in turn leads to the building up of the mindset of escapism – of people wanting to escape the Earth at the expense of of course, the Earth’s resources and well being. With such hype from the media, everybody will be talking about getting to Mars etc, while fewer will address the need to solve the imminent damage their own homeEarth is suffering from.
It does not help, of course, that India remains the top 5 largest producer of CO2 in the world, making their decision to romanticise space exploration much more questionable on a global scale. The heartbreaking slums condition in India is also well known. The Principle of Prioritization of Jurisdiction gave a clear view on this matter – one should “prioritize a more certain long term benefits over ambiguous current advantages”. The benefit from saving the environment is much more obvious than the questionable space exploration.
If there’s a race to be won, it should be a race to save the world, not escaping it.
Life Over Pride
Close to £900m was allocated for the ISRO in the fiscal year 2015-2016 by the Indian government . This was done when 170 million Indians which represent 12.4% of the total population are living below the poverty line . The number also translates into 39% of Indian children below the age of 5 surviving every day undernourished .
One can argue from the utilitarian standpoint that ISRO has contributed to the benefits of many Indians like the improvements of communications and weather forecast but these benefits are nowhere near the cruciality of ending their national hunger. Maslow’s theory states that the most basic level of needs must be fulfilled before motivation is present to move up the higher levels of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If Indian space program was brought to existence to boost national pride, then the Indian government is channelling its resources into level 4 of the hierarchy – clearly skipping two levels from which it should be focusing on building.
The aerospace community worldwide may hail Indian space program as the cheapest. But truly, it’s the most expensive of them all. Costing arms and legs of its own people, literally.
Group 45: Naim Mustafa, Azri Omar, Haziq Rahim, Wan Hasif