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28th February 2024 (9 Topics)

Burden of Power

Context:

India's human spaceflight mission, known as Gaganyaan, has reached a significant milestone with the announcement of the final shortlist of astronaut candidates by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Progress and Milestones of Gaganyaan Mission:

  • Objective: Gaganyaan aims to send an Indian crew to low-earth orbit onboard an Indian rocket, with two test flights of the human-rated Launch Vehicle Mark-3 rocket scheduled in 2024 and 2025, followed by the crewed launch in 2025.
  • The plan: The Union Cabinet approved Gaganyaan in 2018, allocating ?10,000 crore for the mission's implementation, and despite delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ISRO and its collaborators have worked to bring together various components of the mission.
  • Final preparations: With the announcement of the final shortlist of astronaut candidates, India is entering the last phase of preparations for its ambitious human spaceflight mission.

Political and Technological Considerations:

  • Alignment: While political influence cannot be completely eliminated from a project of this scale, Gaganyaan must transcend purely political motivations and align with India's space policy objectives, which emphasize applied research, development of newer systems, and a long-term roadmap for sustained human presence in space.
  • Correct focus: The focus should be on scientific exploration and societal value creation rather than achieving 'space superpower' status, with Gaganyaan serving as a catalyst for seeding a democratic culture of space exploration open to public scrutiny and debate.
  • Contributing to advancement: India's space endeavors should aim to expand human horizons and contribute to scientific advancements, distinguishing themselves from geopolitical aspirations and the pursuit of technological superiority.

Vision for the Future and Societal Impact:

  • Prioritize scientific exploration: As India sets its sights on broader space exploration goals, including landing an Indian on the moon by 2040, it must prioritize scientific exploration and the creation of new scientific and societal value over merely maintaining technological edge or superpower status.
  • Commitment: Gaganyaan and future space missions should reflect a commitment to scientific excellence, international cooperation, and public engagement, fostering a culture of space exploration rooted in democratic values and the pursuit of knowledge for the betterment of humanity.
  • Global leader: By embracing a vision that goes beyond geopolitical ambitions and technological prowess, India can establish itself as a global leader in space exploration while contributing meaningfully to scientific discovery and societal advancement.
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