Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday congratulated scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for the successful launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-21 from Sriharikota.

Expressing happiness at witnessing the launch, Dr. Singh complimented the Department of Space and the ISRO fraternity on this “spectacular success.”

“As ISRO’s 100th space mission, today’s [Sunday’s] launch is a milestone in our nation’s space capabilities,” he told a gathering of scientists that included the former ISRO chiefs.

Dr. Singh also congratulated EADS Astrium of France and the Osaka Institute of Technology of Japan on the successful launch of their satellites. This achievement was a testimony to the commercial competitiveness of the Indian space industry and a tribute to Indian innovation and ingenuity.

He noted that the year also marked the 50th anniversary of the commencement of India’s space programme and acknowledged the presence of many stalwarts of the earlier space programmes, including Project Directors of space missions. “Given the string of successes since then, we often forget how challenging space technology is and what a relatively new field it continues to be.”

Paying rich tributes to Vikram Sarabhai and Satish Dhawan, Dr. Singh recalled that he had worked closely with the latter as a member of the Space Commission in the late 1970s. It was befitting that the new state-of-the art mission control centre at Sriharikota was named after Dhawan. The Prime Minister said questions were sometimes asked about whether a poor country like India could afford a space programme and whether the funds spent on space exploration, though modest, could be better utilised elsewhere. This missed the point that a nation’s state of development was finally a product of its technological prowess.

The founding fathers of the country’s space programme faced a similar dilemma, but they persevered with their vision. Looking back at the enormous societal and national benefits generated in diverse fields, there was no doubt they were right, Dr. Singh said.