ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan on Tuesday dismissed arguments that the spending of Rs.460 crore on the Mars orbiter project was a waste of money. He asserted that the country’s 50-year space programme had “no wrong priorities” and “it is only right priorities” that it had. “India had been a role-model in space applications” and ISRO had contributed to the country’s development process, he noted.
When a reporter asked him whether it was necessary that India should spend money on the Mars mission when poverty prevailed, he said the nation’s space programme was society-centric and science-centric. The country had built satellites for communication, remote-sensing, forecasting weather and navigation. It had also built spacecraft such as Chandrayaan-1 and the Mars orbiter now. It was a world leader in building remote-sensing satellites and its weather satellites were used for disaster management. All these were of immense benefit to decision-makers and people at the ground-level. Every rupee spent on the space programme was of “direct benefit to people.” Thousands of lives were saved recently when INSATs beamed pictures of the approaching Phailin cyclone. The India Meteorological Department used them to warn people and they were evacuated to safer places. Satellite Astrosat, which is yet to be flown, would play an important role in space exploration. It would have applications too. There were spin-offs such as charged-coupled device camera from space missions. India had 20 operating satellites now. There were plans to build small remote-sensing satellites for identifying problem-areas such as forest fire or deforestation. The Mars mission added to “new knowledge.” “People want to know about our existence in the solar system. If we do not do this, we will become stagnant. There is no ambiguity in our space programme.”
The former ISRO chief, U.R. Rao, said that when his friends in the U.S. asked him whether India should spend Rs. 500 crore on the Mars mission, he told them that when Rs. 10,000 crore was spent on Diwali crackers by people, this money was worth spending on the project.