However, the second reason might just come true if only the pivot, or in fact the pivots, are placed at the right location and the right time. And one such pivot might be how the 2 most populous nations on Earth are sowing the first seeds of the largest industry in the future of human civilization. For, China & India’s recent small steps to take their own giant leaps into capturing the final frontier might just prove to be the critical links towards humankind’s march to becoming a multi-planetary species (and perhaps interstellar species?)
Products from everyday cellphone communication and water filters to services like TV broadcasting, weather monitoring and remote sensing are all possible due to direct application or indirect spin offs of technologies developed for space missions. But, then, a very relevant and obvious question is – Why are we not focused on only launching better and diverse satellites which directly aim at improving the lives of the poor in India instead of wasting Rs.460 crore (US$73 million in terms of average dollar to rupee exchange rate in last 6 months) gazing at Martian red dust?
PSLV has, for the first time, mastered a much longer 4 stage ignition lasting 43 minutes than the usual nearly 18 minutes to put a remote sensing satellite in orbit (roughly put, every launch vehicle has multiple stages in terms of fuel containing boosters in each stage which are fired at the right time, right position and right orientation of a spacecraft to place it in the right orbit or to raise the orbit) to place Mangalyaan in the appropriate orbit around Earth from where the spacecraft's own engine took over.
To what extent have we lost because of our government & policymakers’ innate desire to rarely look beyond the 2-3 year election cycles (since major states’ elections happen almost every 2 years) can be gauged from the fact that average satellite costs for this decade (2010-2019) is estimated at $99 million with average launch price at $51 million. 5 years have passed in that 10 year time period. So, around half of that market might be already captured by now and remaining would soon be gone.
And that's where the issues of relevance and usefulness which I mentioned in the early part of this article gain ground. But until we take those small steps, we’ll never get to take the giant leap. But to wait to bask in the glory of an elusive utopian state where the state will first provide toilets, drinking water and power to every head in the soon to be most populous nation on earth and then to think about investing in new age science and technology is nothing but a self defeatist ideology.