Chandrayaan-3’s historic moon landing: A new era for India is about to dawn


By Jan Arden

Some ten years ago, in September 2014, Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent of BBC News reported on India’s successful and exciting mission to propel and orbit the Mangalyaan satellite around Planet Mars. It was the first successful inter-planetary mission undertaken by any Asian country, including China and Japan, not a mean achievement with far more limited resources than either. Responding to the usual criticisms of India’s space ambitions and expenditures when the country was still mired in myriad developmental and economic problems, he stated: “There’s an assumption among many, that space activity is somehow a plaything best left to wealthy industrial countries; that it can have no value to developing nations.” In October 2014, the New York Times apologised for an offensive cartoon by Heng Kim Song depicting an Indian farmer with a cow knocking at the door of a room marked Elite Space Club where two wealthy white men sit reading a newspaper on India’s feat. But the underlying psyche may not have phased out.

The success puts India in the league of space powers like the US and China. – AP: Rajanish Kakade

It was easy to point out that Indian scientists and engineers at Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), working on shoe-string budgets, had achieved that extraordinary Mars mission feat in rocket and satellite developments, against Western technology bans, for less than US$ 74m, one-tenth what Europe or the USA had spent to send their own orbiting satellites around Mars. Or that satellites can and have proved vastly effective in agricultural mapping, ocean or weather watch, urban and land planning and has been an immense facilitator of communication networks or in taking general and health education to the remotest village of India. Or simply the excitement and passion that has gripped India’s children and adolescents, spurring interest in those science and technology fields. Or that visionary investments in science, technology, higher education have long-term benefits that cannot be gauged through stubborn blinkers, occidental paternalism, or the moralising lectures from many quarters unhappy at the irruption and rise of another player in the space technology market.

Against imposed bans on sophisticated technology transfers, India had to place significant emphasis on developing indigenous technology and achieving self-reliance in space exploration. This approach has had the fortunate effect of driving India’s drive for self-reliance in strategic procurements. PM Modi has pushed further the development of critical components, launch vehicles, and satellites within the country, reducing dependency on external sources and fostering technological innovation. All achieved while lifting some 450m Indians out of poverty, one may add, for the benefit of the prejudiced few in the Western media. 

Chandrayaan1, India’ first moon mission, announced by then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his Independence Day speech on 15 August 2003, was launched in 2008 with a lunar probe to the moon’s south pole that was the first to discover lunar water. Launched in July 2019 Chandrayaan-2 consisted of a lunar orbiter, the Vikram lander and the Pragyan rover, all of which were developed in India. While the orbiter continues its operation and data transfer, the moon lander failed its soft-landing attempt, through software design issues and insufficient fail-safe parameters. These were diligently analysed and corrected.

On this Wednesday, the Chandrayaan-3 at about 16.30 local time, soft-landed its rover module in a flawless manoeuvre on the moon’s South Pole, which will provide exciting new scientific breakthroughs about this largely unknown side of our planet. The technological prowess and difficulties have found an illustration in Russia’s failed Luna-25 mission a few days ago as its moon lander crashed onto the moon’s surface. Using gravity through the resource-efficient “sling-shot” strategy and controlling all stages of the moon orbit to releasing the moon lander and its deceleration onto the surface by ISRO software and engineers from 400,000 kms away is without doubt a remarkable feat. Fittingly for India’s identity, richness and diversity, prayers, pujas and namaz had echoed across temples, mandirs and mosques for success of the mission. This is already another impressive first for no mighty country had soft-landed before near the Moon’s south pole.

If the moon module and rover lander and operate successfully (over 14 earth days before the bitter cold freezes out the technology) it will be another impressive first in ISRO and India’s space exploration technologies, paving the way for tackling formidable future challenges to establish a permanent moon mission, develop inhabited space missions or develop more advanced reusable rocket technologies. It will also confirm India’s late but awesome addition to the very select group of nations that have autonomously reached such a remarkable technological status, a geopolitical marker that cannot be ignored.

The global space economy has reached an estimated $464 billion and India, currently holding only 2% of that market, is targeting 9% through its New Space Policy 2023. The expressed vision is: “To augment space capabilities; enable, encourage and develop a flourishing commercial presence in space; use space as a driver of technology development and derived benefits in allied areas; pursue international relations, and create an ecosystem for effective implementation of space applications among all stakeholders”. The key strategy is through “encouraging and promoting greater private sector participation in the entire value chain of the Space Economy, including in the creation of space and ground-based assets”.

That may well be, but for the moment we can share the immense pride, excitement, and satisfaction of ISRO, that of PM Modi speaking from the South Africa BRICS summit, and the billions of Indian nationals and its diaspora across the world. A new era for India is about to dawn, said the Indian PM from South Africa.

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Ordination of Jean-Michael Durhône: An epoch-making hand-over

Several events have or were expected to hit the physical and social media this week.

On the local scene, undoubtedly the ordination last Sunday of 50-year-old Jean-Michael Durhône as Bishop of Mauritius, after the successive spells of Cardinal Margeot and Cardinal Piat, must have been particularly awaited by the catholic community and some 50,000 faithful who indeed flocked to watch this epoch-making hand-over live. Broadcast live by the national carrier, the iconic setting of Marie Reine de la Paix, overlooking Port-Louis was befittingly decked out for the faithful and the numerous political personalities and ambassadors in attendance for this moment of communion and joyful sharing of catholic beliefs under Rome’s hierarchical diocesan structure.

The fact that, in a historic departure for the catholic community, Jean-Michael Durhône does not emanate from the sociological profile of the legacy economic establishment should not detract from a successful mandate. We heartily wish the new Bishop a most invigorating and fruitful career path of service in this elevated role which his predecessors had wielded with grace, gravitas and wisdom. They had generally avoided controversy in favour of quiet exchanges with the authorities but were not hesitant to speak out their minds when necessary, on topics the Church felt attached to, even at the risk of ruffling some egos.

There are several issues, beyond episcopal management, which may have taken greater importance these past years and may call for the attention of the new Bishop. A feeling of under-representation in the both the civil service and at certain levels in the private sector, the growing appeal of Christian evangelicalism in many villages and townships, the scourge of drug trafficking, the ongoing disaster of the extended stream in education, the failures of our institutions in fighting corruption, white-collar or even ordinary crimes, many are the community-specific issues and national challenges the country faces…

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Georgia indictment: The end of the road for Trump?

Former President Donald J. Trump will have surrendered this week to the Fulton County Sheriff Jailhouse in Georgia as ordinary criminal defendant citizen Mr Trump, indicted with 18 co-defendants in a wide-ranging racketeering charge, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) legislation designed initially to curb mob and mafia rule, for conspiring to overturn Georgia state election results in favour of President Joe Biden. Elected District Attorney for Fulton County in 2020, Fani Willis is known for her methodological rigour and for successfully using that RICO statute to prosecute non-mobsters in at least ten previous cases, giving her an in-depth understanding of its legal intricacies, far beyond what Georgia-registered lawyers for the alleged conspirators may have.

Fani Willis’ broad-brush strategy, with so many defendants and potential witnesses, had surprised observers but her considerable experience of successful RICO prosecutions, must have led her to believe that when co-conspirators understand the gravity of their predicament and facing the prospects of mandatory prison charges, many might try to plea bargain out by providing her attorneys with additional crushing evidence against the ring-leaders and the likelihood of her Office securing conviction against those bosses.

In contrast, Special Prosecutor Jack Smith had entered his criminal case of inciting insurrection to overturn elections results against Donald J. Trump without naming six co-conspirators, so as to focus on the former President with the intention of getting the speediest possible trial in Washington DC of those alleged criminal activities. Which legal strategy is more effective remains to be seen. But one aspect worth mentioning is that those convicted in State cases (Fulton County) as opposed to federal court convictions (say, in Washington DC or New York), are not amenable to a presidential pardon and one can expect strenuous efforts from some defendants to get the Fulton case out to federal courts. All the while citizen and Republican candidate Trump will continue his attempts to take his legal battles to the court of public opinion.

But while the indictments have consolidated sympathy in the Trump-controlled base of the Republican party, they may increasingly alienate independent voters. In other words, independently of his possible conviction in any criminal case, the stronger Trump’s standing as a Republican candidate, the lesser his chances of winning the next presidential elections, a dramatic paradox that may lead to further riots if unchecked by US police and security forces in 2024.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 25 August 2023

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