ByÂ Usha Rani Das:
When the successful relief operation of the cyclone “Phailin” is coming to an end with about fourteen casualties till now, one always wonders with awe the reason man has been able to defeat nature in its feat of destruction today! The reason is, as we all may know- Space Research Programs. Due to satellites, people were able to predict the cyclone much before it struck the mainland. Not only this, man was also able to predict the intensity, time and nature of the cyclone, thus evacuation and preparation of relief funds was done with adequate time in hand. Hence in my opinion, when the question arises “Is space exploration a wastage of money?” the answer ‘no’ always outweighs the answer ‘yes’.
Even though theÂ eminentÂ author of Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest, Gerard DeGrootÂ and newspapers like “The Telegraph” have published articles against the motion, no one can deny the development of mankind that has been only possible due to space research programs. From predicting cyclones to curing diseases like calcium homeostasis to inventing microwaves, all has been possible because man was brave enough to go beyond the known earth to explore the unknown space. Many researches are possible on zero gravity and have helped in the invention of new cures and technologies like formation of crystalline protein, which was otherwise impossible due to the gravity of earth. Due to space research programs people have become aware of environmental hazards like global warming, pollution, deforestation, ozone layer depletion, hazards caused by oil spill in the sea or ocean and various other hazards. Ranging from GPS to internet to wireless communication- all are boons of space exploration programs. The list goes on. In a sentence, development would have been crippled without it.
Now let me address the main question of concern- ‘why is a country spending so much on space research when there are millions of hungry stomachs to be fed and countless people to be clothed?‘ NASA spends only 1.6% of the total budget every year on space research which is around 30 dollars per 10,000 dollars of taxpayer’s money. This budget is fixed. If the program is not carried out, then this money is not funded for any other programs, until and unless any other research program needs more funds than is allocated. So in a way the money is not helping the poor and hungry. But if space research is carried on, it benefits them. Hard to believe but it is true. The technological development helps in better manufacturing and production. It helps in agriculture too by forecasting the weather and total land available for production etc. The profit earned by these programs goes in their welfare because development means economic welfare of the country.
This debate was recently sparked all over the country over ISRO’s Mars mission 2013. But we must know that ISRO has brought home huge revenue by their research programs. They provide satellite imagery as well as services such as satellite launch and data reception for foreign satellites, thus earning money for the country. Without space research programs of ISRO India would have had to depend on foreign satellites for the same, thus India would have to pay huge amount of money to enjoy the benefits of space researchÂ programs.
It is true that no research should ever be discouraged, for who knows, when we might find a cure for the incurable!