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Millennium Post

India, China and new space race

With India’s Mars Orbiter Mission now in its second phase and China’s ‘Jade Rabbit’ lunar rover blasting it off into space, the new era of space technology and exploration, it can be safely said, is being led by the Asian powers. However, what cannot be discounted is that the regional giants are losing more sleep over their cosmological ambitions and one-upmanship, instead of entering a mutual understanding and expanding the horizon of greater cooperation. The Indian Space Research Organisation talks less to its Chinese counterparts than it does with institutions like Nasa, the European Space Agency and the Russian Space Agency, which is unfortunate, since both the Asian powers are still at initial stages of developing their respective space industry, and it would do well for them to do so in sync with each other. The Indian and the Chinese governments are equally to blame for this handicap, since the two countries have complementary strengths and would serve them well to join hands in conquering the frontiers of near and far space. While India’s strongpoint is its PSLV and GSLVs, which prop up an otherwise limping space programme, and until the revolutionary Mars mission that was devised on a shoe-string budget, generally eat into our public funds, China surges ahead with its indigenously designed light-weight rovers that could be a boon for space scientists. Moreover, both China and India are yet to achieve a manned mission to the moon and other near-Earth bodies of the solar system, and therefore it makes sense to not go about the highly-sensitive projects individually.

With the International Space Station having a limited shelf life until 2020, India, along with China and Russia, must put into motion combined Asian prowess to build the alternative, along with Nasa and Esa, of course. Hence, the current successes of the Mangalyaan and China’s lunar mission, come as they do after several aborted and prematurely terminated attempts, could usher in a new age of increased cooperation. With ISRO becoming only the fourth space agency after those of US, Europe and Russia, to have successfully sent a spacecraft to mars, India can now proudly take the next steps.
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