The incredible feat of Chandrayaan-3’s Moon landing is the result of a process that was started years ago, and it moves India closer to having a bigger vote in the decisions on space exploration policy. The Moon missions were planned during K Kasturirangan’s leadership of ISRO; he spoke to The Indian Express about the past and future of India’s moonshot moment.
What plan do you have for Chandrayaan-3’s lunar landing?
Without a question, it is a historic occasion. But if you go past the immediate circumstance, it provides us a really significant capability. We now have direct access to a another planetary body. We are at the cutting edge of this technology since we are one of very few nations having this capability.
We shall therefore participate in all decisions relating to future planetary explorations and even the mining of space for minerals. Naturally, we belong to the group that creates these rules.And this is important because in the past, it has hurt us to be excluded from such clubs. We have been denied access to technologies in crucial fields like space exploration and atomic energy. We were excluded because we lacked independence and in some ways were reliant. Of course, as India moves from being a developing to a developed country, that has changed over time and is changing quickly.
In the 21st century, the relative importance of nations and their impact on the global community will be heavily influenced by their space capabilities. It’s crucial that we may all engage and contribute on an equal basis. Additionally, we ought to be able to exert more influence on international decision-making processes pertaining to space. That assurance and capacity are provided by Chandrayaan-3.
India was the first nation to launch a space program that was solely focused on developmental goals and took a wholly peaceful approach to using space technology. Japan was likely the second. The Cold War was being carried out in space by the two major space powers at the time, the US and the former USSR. Sadly, Sarabhai passed away in 1971, but all of his ISRO successors—Professor MGK Menon, Satish Dhawan, and U R Rao—kept working toward realizing his goals. ISRO developed capabilities in satellite technologies, meteorology, communication, broadcasting, and remote sensing.
A large portion of Sarabhai’s goal had already been accomplished by the time U R Rao left government (in 1994). The obvious question for successors like myself was what came next (Kasturirangan succeeded U R Rao as ISRO chairman). How can we carry on Sarabhai’s legacy while utilizing the skills developed over the preceding three decades? Then we started talking about planetary exploration strategies, with the moon being the logical starting point.