There are many ways to describe the significance of India’s successful moon mission.
A rare feat, a shot in the arm to the country’s nascent space industry, more powers to India in the areas of satellite intelligence, a definite lift in the country’s image etc.
However, for many of us who grew up in a poor nation of the closed economy era; saw its transformation over the three decades of liberalisation; and; were often frustrated to find us way behind China in the race to the top; the landing on the moon was the “yes, we can moment.”
It brought the country out of the self-imposed inferiority complex and, marked the rise of a new, confident India that aspired to be a superpower.
Inspirationally, we are now in the same orbit as China. Doesn’t matter, if we are a few paces behind them. We know we will catch them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a similar message, after the feather-like landing of Vikram on the dark southern pole of the moon, where no one reached before. That was also what the world has been discussing since Wednesday (23 August) evening.
Check any foreign media, CNN, CBS, Channel 4, DW, Al Jazeera and, they are discussing India’s entry into the super league and its impact on the world economy.
“A successful space programme is the prerequisite to be a superpower,” reminded a commentator.
Worldwide, space programmes have strong inspirational value. And, nothing succeeds in this world more than success, which came on 23 August, exactly 20 years after Atal Bihari Vajpayee launched the Chandrayaan programme in 2003.
In these two decades, India achieved many feats in its space mission. We were known for frugal engineering. Chandrayaan-1 discovered ice on the south pole of the moon. The sector was opened for private participation three years ago.
But that zing was absent till Vikram Lander reached the moon safely, and Rover Pragyan went out exploring the presence of minerals and the sub-surface temperature and other details on that part of the moon.
“Indian companies who participated in the moon mission will find the world opening doors to them. There will be a spree of foreign investment and joint venture proposals,” remarked a foreign commentator.
That’s a distinct and definite future. After nearly half a century of inaction, lunar missions are back in the reckoning, courtesy the Artemis mission of the US that wants to convert the moon into a launchpad for interplanetary travel.
The new opportunities evoked great interest in the global economy. Russia, China, Japan, Israel, Korea, European space agency all have lined up moon missions. Some of them, like Japan, are working jointly with India.
India was six years away from sending its first satellite in space, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, in 1969, in Apollo 11. China launched its lunar exploration programme in 2004 but reached the moon well ahead of us.
Chandrayaan-3 helped us reduce the legacy gap with China. In one stroke, India is catapulted into the front row of the emerging lunar economy. And, that justifies the popular frenzy about the success of the mission.
This mass interest and ecstasy will be our biggest asset in the journey to the future.
Success is very new to us. Naturally, it will have a wider impact than what Apollo11 did to the US in terms of technology rush.
From athletic footwear, heat-resistant clothing used by firefighters, solar panels, heart monitors, swimming pool purifiers, kidney dialysis machines — many products that we commonly use today have their roots in the space research of that era.
In the Indian context, Chandrayaan is set to lead to a dramatic rise in activities in space research and technology. There will be more start-ups in that area. Over and above, it will have a significant impact on the thought process of the common Indian.
The Cricket World Cup win in 1983 not only laid the foundation for a sprawling cricket economy but instilled self-belief in us.
Thousands of young Indians from small towns and villages took sports as a career option. They came from extremely humble backgrounds and made riches.
We can safely expect a similar impact on India’s technical and science education. The success of the IT industry once dragged all engineering talents to that sector. The Moon Mission will help correct that trend. There will be renewed interest in core disciplines and research.
The pictures of students and common people, of all hues, joining prayers for the success of Chandrayaan-3, left a very strong message against the carefully built narrative on the ‘religious gap’ and ‘democratic backsliding.’
The most interesting impact is visible in subcontinent politics where India and China keep jostling for space.
On Wednesday (23 August), a former minister in the Imran Khan cabinet requested Pakistani TV channels for a live telecast of the Chandrayaan-3 landing. The same minister mocked India after the failure of Chandrayaan-2.
The young and educated Pakistanis took to the internet to remind their leadership that fake posturing wouldn't do any good to the national interest. Pakistan, they said, should bury differences with India and learn from its experiences.
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