Indian Space Exploration – What is There to Gain?

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 .

group45pic1.png
Maslow’s Hierarchy

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

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23 thoughts on “Indian Space Exploration – What is There to Gain?

  1. It is a calculated risk investment for the country to better provide for the needs of the people. If successful, it generates income for the country to better spent for its people. Even if the intended result is not achieved it does put the country in an advanced technology arena which hopefully will generate income, again via technology.

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  2. Good article! A really food for thought. I agree on the last few paragraphs. Using the funds for the aerospace program, they should focus on solving the people’s basic need first rather catching up the world’s attention with the space program.

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    1. Kinda agree with the points. They should know which area to prioritise, and not just take a populist and ‘cool’ approach.

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  3. Looking at the bright side. The will be new passion and hope for kids in india to look up for. For the passion of science.

    Hope the sector will be provide more jobs for the people as well as improving their life also.

    That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

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  4. The Indian space community has been great over the years. Launching several flights into the space showing the nation’s capability of advancing through the space technology.

    A big round of applause to them whom inspired many people especially the young generations in India to grow and expand their thinking beyond imaginations.

    Bravo!

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  5. How can ex-Colonial masters complain about how India wishes to spend it’s money? It’s very clear that technology is the money maker of 21st century. After exploiting India for 400 years in colonial rule and performing genocide all over the world, and even Winston Churchill letting Indians die in Bengal Famine, killing Sikhs who were doing peaceful protest in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar, India.

    You have given paltry sum as reparation and then cried fowl that we used it for space program. How do you even know that your money was used in space program? Your Tabloid scream out like morons.

    I have zero interest in justifying why India should spend on space program, because we sure can and damn we will and you have no rights to ask what we do.

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  6. I must say that this is an excellent attempt. It is definitely not the first time we see a bunch of ethnic Pakistanis trying to pass of as Brits trying to diss the Indian Space program. The last sentence really shows the real intentions of these people.

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  7. Anyone who opposes Indian space program can gladly get losr. Here’s why

    Thanks to /u/0w0 for the comment in of the threads. http://www.np.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/1pxxvk/india_has_successfully_launched_a_spacecraft_to/cd76y7g

    1) ISRO’s(Indian Space Research Organization) budget is only 0.34 per cent of Central Government expenditure currently and 0.08 per cent of the GDP(~USD 800 Million). Compare that to billions spent on “Fix Poverty” programs such as Employment Guarantee Programs(NREGA, USD 7.24+ Billion spent each year) and Subsidized/Free Food Program(FSB,USD 20+ Billion to be spent each year) etc.

    2) And Mars Orbiter Mission/Mangalyaan would cost USD ~74 Million only.

    3) ISRO is actually funding itself thanks to annual revenue from foreign satellite launches and sale of satellite data/imagery(that is useful for things like Google Maps for example) through its Antrix Subsidiary. Last time I checked it was INR 9 BILLION. source.

    4) Data generated by ISRO and related organizations is helping the poorest of poor in India:

    Voluminous data from the Indian remote sensing satellites has benefited millions of farmers and fishermen in achieving higher productivity and making optimal utilisation of resources, a senior space scientist said Saturday.

    “Studies by the premier economic research institute NCAER have shown that remote sensing data has accrued multiple benefits to farmers across the country with seven percent increase in productivity and helping the farm sector to contribute about Rs.50,000 crore to the national gross domestic product (GDP) over the years,” Indian Society of Remote Sensing president V.K. Dadhwal told reporters here.

    Similarly, application of remote sensing data by the fishing community contributed about Rs.24,000 crore to the GDP and saved fuel consumption by 30 percent with timely advisories on weather, sea conditions and identification of potential fishing zones for maximizing the catch.

    5) And it is saving lot of lives:
    India was hit hard by Cyclone Phailin, with 12 million people impacted, including millions evacuated from the Odisha coast to safety earlier this week. This was the strongest storm to hit the state in 14 years, and it devastated homes and villages in both Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states, with flooding that has closed roads and left some 100,000 people stranded.

    The country’s satellite imagery satellites are being credited with saving lives thanks to better forecasting, and the ability to share intensity with citizens and policymakers to urge evacuation. [..]
    There are 11 Indian remote sensing satellites in service, allowing the National Remote Sensing Centre in Hyderabad to help agencies forecast cyclones more than 72 hours in advance. [..]
    The synthetic aperture radar satellites, Risat-1 launched in April last year and Risat-2 which has been in orbit since April 2009 have the ability to look for impending cyclones even at night and through clouds. The synthetic aperture radar in the satellites enables applications in agriculture too, especially for paddy monitoring during kharif season. Saral, an Indio-French satellite launched on February 25, 2013, can study ocean circulation and sea surface elevation.

    “Those who criticise the expenditure on space science don’t realise its contribution to not just saving lives but alleviating poverty,” says Bhargava, who founded the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad. “You can argue that the space department gets higher allocation, but it is well justified. After all, Indian space scientist makes satellites and rockets at a fraction of the cost of similar US projects.” source1 source2

    TL;DR: Investment in Science and Technology == Good.
    Link to verified unofficial ISRO AMA. http://www.np.reddit.com/r/india/comments/1ujcmo/we_are_three_isro_scientists_here_to_answer_your/ceiodrq

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What do these poverty-before-everything first-worlders think ISRO launches satellites for?

    They’re for cartography. Weather prediction. Education. Disaster management communication. All applications that help people.

    Are these guys really under the impression ISRO sends expensive fireworks on a couple of orbits around earth only to watch as they burn up on re-entry?

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  9. I dont understand why Indian Space programs are controversial to anyone.

    The world record set by the Indian space agency ISRO by successfully Launching 104 Satellites was not for vain purposes. Most of the satellites belonged to international customers who pay ISRO to launch them

    ISRO is also going to sell in-house lithium battery technology that is reportedly going to be made available to electric vehicle manufacturers for commercial purposes

    So the Indian space agency ISRO has directly & instantaneous contributed to the Indian as well as the Global economy and will continue to do so in the long term.

    Also having bragging rights doesn’t hurt either

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  10. It looks like the white man is yet to relieve himself of his burden.

    Here, let me do it for you guys. You will honestly feel lighter. There is absolutely no need for you to concern yourself with how Indians or India as a nation decides to spend its money. So take your opinions and concerns and shove them up your _ where they belong. We are perfectly capable of thinking for ourselves.

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  11. The number of people who don’t know that you need a space program for weather monitoring, cartography, remote sensing, navigation, environmental conservation and defence is astounding.

    Space programs aren’t dick measuring contests between nations-there are plenty of real world applications as well.

    In fact, very few ISRO missions have been research-oriented. Even those missions help in creating jobs.

    Lastly, ISRO is helping the nation develop it’s own commercial launch industry, which will be a net benefit for the economy.

    Please do educate yourself on these.

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  12. Some people debate if earth is flat, doesn’t mean we should debate about that.

    Only a delusional person would think space research is waste in India. Don’t see how I can participate in this debate.

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  13. The last few paragraphs betray what had been an attempt to be objective by the authors. While I am sure that other posts have already put out these points, emphasising a couple of them would do no harm. Let’s just examine one use case of ISRO’s technology. The evacuation of around 550,000 people from the coasts of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha during Cyclone Phailin’s landfall. The monitoring by Indian satellites allowed for a quick evacuation- Now you state Maslow’s pyramid- what use is it, if the people at the very bottom are dead? A contra case to the one I have described would be the 1999 Odisha Cyclone that claimed the lives of 15,000 people. Weather monitoring helped save lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

    Another use case that the authors have glossed over is that of weather prediction: It appears that the authors aren’t aware that a large portion of the subcontinent’s water supply comes from the monsoon rains. Monitoring various parameters that are known to affect the monsoon rains are crucial in order to put out predictions on the strength of the monsoon. Moreover, data gathered by satellites are crucial to helping farmers and fishermen. These assist ministries to execute policy decisions, infrastructure projects, water and river management among others.
    Before the engineers in the west debate about our need for satellite technology, please note the objectives of each of these missions designed to help commoners.
    (http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=155408) and the application for farmers for updates(http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=128429).

    Moreover, if we are looking at the amount of money spent for ISRO, we spend more on crop subsidies (subsidies to sugar alone are around 700 million USD) to help the poorer sections of society than we do on ISRO (Who also manage a top-line through commercial space launches, however small, through the Antrix arm).

    Finally, I’m sure that the authors are not aware of such stories about slums in India (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-08-28/in-india-slum-dwellers-move-into-high-rises).

    Arms and legs indeed!

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  14. To be honest, British obsession with Indian Space Program is kinda sad and to some extent funny, It is like, they cant seem to comprehend the fact that a former colony has a functional and successful national space program while they are just another contributor to ESA.

    ISRO provides GPS and sat nav facilitates to Indian fisherman , They are also planning to monitor the mining projects in India through sats, In a Geo-political hotspot like Asia, where on one side there is china and other side there is pakistan both hostile nation, ISRO provides precious High tech nav and gps facilities to Indian army ( We dont have a sugardaddy like USA).

    ISRO also has a successful commercial arm which generates revenue for them by launching sats for private companies , In the 21th century , where knowledge is the greatest resource available to men, ISRO is a shining beacon for the emerging ( or i should re-emerging) Indian Economy,

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  15. I love reading UK headlines that just reek of jealousy when ISRO achieves something. The question you should be asking is why does UK get so butt hurt about ISRO, we will continue achieving more and more, there is nothing you can do about it 😀 Perhaps UK should start it’s own space program there are countless benefits.

    Not surprisingly, a few muslim ID’s (and the author himself) think science research is a waste of time. LOL

    The last paragraph reads like some one who is totally clueless about space programs in general, and the benefits.

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    1. Hi,
      thanks for your time.
      I am one of the authors, and because you mentioned about ‘muslim’, I’ll presume that you must be a muslim too. I am sorry if we have disappointing you in some way.
      well, I just want to clarify that we are international students coming from muslim’s coutry.
      To be honest, my point in the writing is that I support Indian’s space development for benefiting national development. however, my teammates not really mean to offend anyone moreover Indians. this is just an assignment that we need to do (where someone need to give against arguments), and by getting all the honest feedback from you guys have made me happy.
      I really loved to go to India if I have time, not only to the big cities but also to the sub-urbs. what i can say is i wish i have more money at the end of the year to travel to India.

      I would like to ask more of your opinion, if you don’t mind, regarding the effect of space tech development to India’s education system such as to your tertiary education. or anyone who read my comment and has an idea about it, please leave a comment or two.

      To all of you who have given feedback to our article, I would like to give my utmost appreciation to you guys, and I hope that India will become more successful as a country.

      Like

  16. As an Indian, I want ISRO to ramp up their budget even more. Being oblivious to technology is not going to help Indian masses, instead one of the ways to alleviate India’s poverty is to ramp up technological innovation. Indians are one of the biggest contributors to Silicon Valley, and are CEOs of Google, Microsoft, Adobe among others. ISRO is just one of the avenue to help Indian curiosity and propel towards a bright future. India cannot leave the space race, and instead will double down.

    Also, Indian programme is one of the most cost effective ones, I don’t know why you said it costs arms and legs. I think poverty is a handicapped leg to stand on to ridicule any country’s space programme. Social issues will be prevalent in any country, they should not hinder progress in another forward thinking area like space.

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  17. Hi everyone!

    I’m one of the authors of this blog and would like to apologise to anyone who had felt offended by the blog. It wass never our intention to hurt anybody’s feelings.

    Having said that, we appreciate all views and will process the feedbacks given.

    As mentioned by Naim in one of the comments, this is one of our university assignments where we need to come up with arguments for opposing views (pros and cons) viewed using moral frameworks. I admit the sentences might be slightly strong for certain people but one of the purposes of this exercise is to see how people feel about such a strong view. It goes to show that existing moral frameworks may have its own flaws and not agreed by everybody. Which is to be expected.

    For the record, we have nothing against India as a country. The opinions brought forward in the blog is solely based on actions taken by a government of a country (which happens to be India) regarding the topic of space program viewed through the lens of ethical cycle.

    Thanks again everybody!

    -International Student at a British Uni-

    Like

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