ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan aggressively defended the Mars Orbiter Mission, saying such scientific enterprises helped push the development of technologies which would bring benefit to wider society.
“Since its inception, the Indian space programme has been people-centric. There is no ambiguity of purpose as far as the space programme is concerned,” he said, insisting that ISRO was not in race with any nation or space agency, but itself in setting its targets for space missions.
He parried questions on whether India needed such missions even as it battles poverty, saying the country’s space programme has been a role model for the application of space technologies for ground-level benefits.
“Such missions always boost the development of new technologies. For the Mars Orbiter Mission, for instance, we have had to develop on-board autonomy, which could eventually find applications on the ground. A vast number of common technologies that are commonly in use today were developed for space,” said Radhakrishnan, in response to a question from a foreign journalist over how expenditure on such missions was justified even as India continues to battle poverty.
“Indian Space Research Organisation has been advancing from strength to strength. This is the next step in our quest for more information and newer technologies. If we do not take up such missions, then we become stagnant,” he added.
Radhakrishnan also said ISRO had functioned in a manner that made it an international role model for how space technology could be used to bring benefits to the grassroots. “Three of our satellites - INSAT-3A, INSAT-3B and KALPANA - helped in crucial monitoring of the recent cyclone (Phailin) which hit Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. These satellites provided continuous stream of information to the Meteorological Department and helped save thousands of lives,” he said.
He added that a number of ISRO’s other satellites were providing information which is proving to be critical to decision and policy making at various levels of government.