India is truly a fast emerging space power in the world. Space conquest probably began during the cold war between two most powerful states, United States and Soviet Union (now disintegrated into 15 different countries). However, the main aim of the race was not space exploration, but was political exploitation. Although India was far behind in the conquest of space, but hats off to Indian space scientists who made India into the list of space conqueror.
Many believe that ‘Indian space exploration’ history is just few decades old when in 1961; the National Committee for Space Research was set up under the Chairmanship of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai. But in reality, the history dates back around 1500 years ago. Famous mathematician and astronomer during Chandragupta regime (5th century AD.), Aryabhata gave some great calculation regarding space that is almost accurate. He presented his theory of heliostat, which states that planets revolve around the sun. This theory was presented about a millennium before than the very same theory presented by Galileo. Rig Veda, the oldest text, also mentioned space exploration. India’s rich space exploration history is probably unparallel in the world.
But, in the real sense, the history of space exploration starts in 1963, when a sounding rocket, Nike Apache was launched from a church-turned-launch pad, Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in Kerela. This was a point where space development started. Then the first Indian satellite, Aryabhata was launched in April 1975. Although designed by scientists of ISRO, but Aryabhata was launched from the Soviet Union cosmodrome at Baikonur. Then it was the era of advancement in communication. India too participated in the race by sending its first experimental communication satellite, APPLE (Ariane Passenger Payload Experiment), which made India the sixth country to send communication satellite.
Although designed by Indian scientists working at ISRO, previously, the satellites were sent by other countries, due to lack of technology. But after the successful launch of Rohini satellite into the space, India is now not only capable to launch her own satellites from native land, but also the payload of other countries. So India is a self-sufficient country in the field of space exploration.
With the failure of SLV-3 in 1979, India’s debut venture in developing satellite launch vehicle was introduced. But later in 1983, a modified version of SLV-3, carrying Rohini-2 was successfully launched. The satellite sent 2,500 pictures to its ground station. Again starting with a failure, ISRO launched ASLV (Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle) program. But in 1992, ASLV-D3 successfully placed SROSS-III into the orbit. Then came the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) program. Its first successful launch in form of PSLV-D2 was made from the launch pad of Sriharikota in 1994. It escorted remote satellite, IRS-P2. India successfully launched its first GSLV (Geo stationary Satellite Launching Vehicle) in 2001, which allowed India to join the elite space club of five nations- USA, Russia, European Union, China and Japan.
Indian Space and Research Organzation has played an incredible role in the development of space technlogy and made India into the top list of space conqueror. Having a budget of $1.3 billion in 2008, ISRO made India’s name into the list of space conqueror. Till date, India has launced several communication and weather monitoring satellite. India’s first indegeneous multipurpose satellite was INSAT series. First in this series was INSAT 1A which was launched in 1982 from United States. India successfully launched I.R.S 1A, her first indegeneous remote sensing satellite in 1988. After the launch of I.R.S series, India stated locating resources on the Earth from space.
Indian space program is a broad one-from communication to weather forecasting and from mapping of resources on the Earth to space exploration. India has got a huge success in the field of communication. After the first launch of experimental communication satellite, APPLE, India has traveled miles to get a respectable position. Now using a satellite phone one can communicate to another, without considering the fact where the person is. We everyday use mobile phones, which is a gift of Indian space program. In television sector, one can just obtain a connection to any channel of the world just by placing an antenna on his rooftop. After the launch of INSAT 4A in 2005, India entered into the era of Direct-to-Home (DTH) service. Now private organizations were able to take pace with the government agencies in this industry. A man can surf Internet just by a push of a single button of his mobile phone. This type of comfort is present to us just because of the Indian space program. In weather monitoring too, India is very much capable to forecast the weather and can warn us enough before any natural calamity occur. ISRO also plans to map the earth and make the maps publicly available and thus will become a competition for Google Earth. The project is named Bhuvan.
Another major success of ISRO is the introduction of virtual classes using satellite technology. It means that a teacher sitting in front of a camera, can teach his students who are miles away from the classroom. This communication is possible only because of satellite technology. Modern age is an era of internet tecnology which can also be used to set up a virtual classroom. But for those who can not afford internet, IGNOU is a perfect one. Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) was set up for those graduate sudents who cannot afford studying in a well graded university. A student can optain a degree of MBA or MCA just by attending virtual classes, sitting in front of a television set.
Nation poet, Rabindranath Tagore wrote,
“If nobody lend their ears to your voice,
Do the work without them.”
Indian space scientists proved the statement correct when they built India’s first cryogenic engine without the support of any other external help. During 1990s, under the pressure of Glavkosmos, Russian Space Agency halted its support to India in the field of space technology. As a result, India’s Cryogenic project faced a serious threat. But thanks to the scientists of ISRO, who turn the dream of indigenous cryogenic engine into reality. This proved not only the capability of Indian scientists but also showed her desire to make her name into the list space conqueror.
On 22nd October 2008, a new chapter was added in the history of space for India by launching Chandrayaan-1 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. A Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C11) escorted chandrayaan-1 weighing 1304 kilogram. Its basic purpose is to make a survey of lunar surface and to locate minerals on the moon by staying in the lunar orbit for couple of years. It carried six scientific payloads- three from European Space Agency two from Nasa and one from Bulgaria. India became the sixth member of moon club after United States, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China. It is the third member from Asia, followed by Japan and China. It again showed the capability of Indian Space scientists and her power in the field of space.
The launch of Chandrayaan increased the confidence level of ISRO scientist and foresees to send a manned mission to space in next few years. The first step towards this goal was the 600-kg Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE), launched using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, and safely returned to earth 12 days later. This demonstrates India's capability to develop heat-resistant materials necessary for re-entry.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has conceptually developed a Sun mission called 'Aditya'. ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair announced that this mission was approved.
ISRO also plans to send a navigation mission, called Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS). It is similar to Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system and can be used to from any location of the country. IRNSS consist of seven satellite, which can detect the position accurate upto 20 metres. The work for the mission has already been started and it is believed that its fuctioning would start within 2012.
But these developments in space sector came into controversy. People generally ask what is the need for investing billions of rupees in space exploration. The answer is plaussible and yet simple. It is estimated that there may be enough resources present in the universe which can fulfill all our energy and resource crisis. Asteroids and comets are such heavenly bodies which may consist vast deposits of useful natural resources. Hence more and more countries would try to locate and capture those celestial bodies which are actually the deposits of useful minerals. It is also predictated that the main cause of the third World War would probably be scarecity of water and space exploration for the exploitation of these resources. Investment in space sector means that India would be, of course, one of the country in the lead in upcoming decades.