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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

India's Mars Probe Lifts Off

 I'm sure Indians will be, rightly, proud today. As the Register says:

"India's delayed Mars mission is on the countdown for launch, and barring further delays or mishaps, will begin its trip on Tuesday, November 5, from a southern coastal island near Chennai.
The Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission probe) was announced in August 2012, with a combined objective to prove that India has the technological ability to get to Mars, and to collect data for future missions.
The Mars probe would be, at least, a remarkable achievement of economy: at 450 crore Rupees, or about US$74 million, (£45m) the price is more like that of a new university campus than a Mars mission.

However, unlike current US efforts, India isn't attempting to land on the Red Planet, but to reach orbit. The orbiter will be riding a PLSV C25 launch vehicle, due to lift off at 2.38 pm on November 5 (local time), with a 40 minute flight that will get it to Earth orbit.

The mission will spend between 20 and 25 days in Earth orbit before being pointed at Mars to spend nine months in travel, arriving in late September 2014"

    Price comparable to the original estimate I made for a Scottish asteroid landing X-Prize.

    The depressing thing is that the British obedient media seem to have made this largely a story about usgi8ving foreign aid to India.

    This is a spiteful and mean attitude. India is still a country of enormous poverty. Our "aid" comes to about 22p per head and will stop in 2015 anyway. I'm not convinced that "aid" does or is even meant to aid - sometimes it is to secure deals; sometimes it is to ensure our favoured dictators stay friendly. If helping the 3rd world were the real intent we would quit the EU, allowing us to buy their food at a lower price than within the EU but a higher price than they get for it. That would do far more to develop their economies. And if we were giving aid to do good then India, where there is a very good growth rate and less corruption than elsewhere, is where we would give it.

   The subtext to our media's coverage is "how dare these brown people we brought civilisation to and patronised endlessly now engage in a technological venture we haven't" and that is a shameful attitude.

    The shame is that we could be doing it, yet we spend virtually nothing on space (granted we spend £330m on ESA but that is not going on space - it is going on bureaucracy and ensuring that a proportionate number of favoured companies in each country get a bit of the pork barrel).

     We could, if we put that money into space development in the way everybody knows would be most effective, ie an X-Prize Foundation easily outpace India and perhaps even the USA. But our ruling class and obedient media would rather engage in meanspirited racism.

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