By Muqbil Ahmar
Space technology is making a big comeback, both nationally and internationally. The new Rs 2,000 note displays the motif of Mangalayan on the reverse side, depicting India’s first venture into interplanetary space. This celebration of the space odyssey is not without significance.
Mangalyaan or the Mars Orbiter Mission had sent back photographs of the red planet and signaled India’s grand entry into interplanetary missions. The Mars pictures sent back were well received and were considered path breaking. The orbiter tried to find out presence of methane gas on the planet to explore the possibility of the existence of life there. It was propelled from Satish Dhawan Space Centre on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), making the boldest statement till date about India’s foray into the next generation of space technology. The mission took off from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
The picture of Mangalyaan on the Rs 2,000 note is indication that the government wants to take scientific progress to every Indian, said Prof D. Narayana Rao, General President of the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) in a recent interview. He further added: “Moving ahead is easy only when the society appreciates our S&T achievements.”
Mangalyaan motif could spur interest in space technology
The recent showcasing is symptomatic of the renewed interest not only in space exploration, in general, but also Mars exploration, in particular. It is also representative of the level of government support and interest for space technology. In fact, the move could be the harbinger of big ticket announcements in the future related to India’s efforts at establishing itself as a credible force in space technology. We could also witness renewed thrust on space programs with greater funding and support.
“Space exploration is a challenge facing humanity. Mankind will have to explore other viable options for survival. Space travel has significantly improved over the past years. I have always been very excited at the idea of affordable space travel. The day is not far when space technology would be reliable and affordable. The establishment is seeking to put the thrust back on space technology,” said Shashank Dixit, CEO, Deskera, a global leader in cloud technology, who is also a space technology enthusiast.
Upsurge in international interest in interplanetary travel
At the international level too, a number of Mars centered and spaceflight initiatives have picked up steam. Maverick American billionaire Elon Musk has been at the forefront of such initiatives through his pioneering spaceflight company SpaceX that has broken new ground technologically as mankind inches closer to finding a suitable habitation other the Earth. Tesla Motors CEO Musk put up the company to find out how space travel can be made affordable for ordinary people. In the long run, he is looking at Mars as a possible option for human habitation. The US government and NASA are also working on a long term plan of taking pioneers to Mars, and living off the ground there.
The ideas have captured popular imagination through films and media. Ridley Scott-directed The Martian (2015) and Andy Weir's eponymous (2011) novel explores the idea of human settlements on Mars. Similarly, Christopher Nolan-directed Hollywood flick Interstellar (2014) shows human quest for life after the Earth becomes uninhabitable.
With over 10 years of experience in the field of journalism, the author is a technology evangelist and avid blogger.