Executive Intelligence Review


Political Fight for India’s Manned Space Program Will Be Won by Prime Minister Modi

Aug. 28, 2018 (EIRNS)—Yesterday, the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization K. Sivan, in a session with reporters in New Delhi, detailed how ISRO will carry out Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan for India to launch an Indian astronaut by 2022. It will be a five to seven-day mission, during which the crew will carry out microgravity experiments. Sivan said that 13,000 jobs would be created in industry to carry out the mission, and ISRO will add 900. Space capsule recovery experiments have been carried out, and a prototype spacesuit designed. ISRO is planning either a sea or land landing, he reported. “Soon, you will see advertisements for selecting potential astronauts,” said Sivan.

The previous day, the City of London’s Financial Times gave voice to the opposition, which has stalled the manned project, and even the Indian satellite program, throughout ISRO’s history. Most of the opposition, naturally, comes from the financial mafia, and the professional India pessimists. “I think if you did a grand cost-benefit analysis, this wouldn’t rank very high among the priorities,” says Vivek Dehejia of the IDFC Institute. “When we’re a rich country we’ll have plenty of time to put a man on the Moon,” says Dehejia—a student of Robert Mundell’s—purposely distorting what is even being proposed.

The Indian space program is often contrasted with China’s. Dehejia advises, “if you want to beat China, beat them on the economy” with clearly no comprehension of how China is enabling “sustained growth,” or why it is spending substantial sums on a space program, while so successfully fighting poverty.

The scientific community is mobilized to secure funding and support for the program. On Aug. 26, highly respected biologist, and principal scientific advisor to the government, K. Vijay Raghavan acknowledged that the program and timeline are a challenge, but says ISRO has been moving on the mission. Dr. Raghavan explained that opposition was raised as far back as India’s development of rockets in the 1970s. He dismissed questions about the money spent on “expensive” space missions, saying “We anticipate the short-term and long-term benefits.” (In fact, it is estimated that the $1.5 billion manned mission will cost $1.15 per Indian over four years).

He sees the program as a technology driver for the economy, pointing out that today India has to import electronic parts and other equipment, but that “We can use this manned mission to promote domestic industry and science.”

He concludes that the mission will also inspire the young generation, and all Indians will be proud of it.

Rodman Narashima, former director of India’s National Aerospace Laboratories, reports that in his conversations throughout his career with working-class Indians about the space program,

“It is their dream to send their kids to university so they can do things like space technology.... I’ve hardly found anybody who thinks it shouldn’t be done.”

This mission can succeed because of Prime Minister Modi’s Kennedy-like setting of a challenging national mission, and a deadline to meet it. It is a statement on economic policy, seen through the example of the space program, which puts advanced technology and breakthroughs in science rather than “appropriate technology” as the driver of tomorrow’s Indian economy.

And it sets an example to the many other developing nations determined to overcome poverty.