Christine Rose Sebastian
Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) hard work over the last several years culminated on the 14th of July 2023 when Chandrayaan 3 was launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre making India not only the fourth country to successfully land on the moon but also the very first country to land near the lunar south pole! So, of course, everyone across the globe followed the enormous win by sending in their compliments. Following suit, but in the true spirit of a cynical relative, a British journalist named Patrick Christys, while congratulating India on this astronomical achievement, went ahead and invited India to return the £2.3 billion aid money it borrowed from the UK between 2016 and 2021. He reasoned his statement by saying that since India can afford to fire a rocket to the dark side of the moon, it shouldn’t be going to them with its hands out. He added, “We should not be giving money to countries with a space program as a rule.” These comments by the presenter at GB News were faced with harsh backlash. The responses ranged from people explaining how investing in space programs would lead to economic growth to people bringing up how the British extracted about $45 trillion during the British Raj.
But think about it, why is a country that’s still developing putting so much money into space programs? Why would it allocate money towards space research and space programs instead of using the same money to work towards alleviating poverty?
The reason is that allocating massive funds towards an effort as vast and ambitious as alleviating poverty is just NOT enough! It’s as simple as that. Additionally, it is presumptuous to assume that space research has borne no fruit concerning poverty alleviation. Space research may not have any direct effects on poverty alleviation, but a lot of what we have achieved through space exploration is an immense help in the same direction.
Telecommunications and Internet Access
ISRO has launched several communication satellites and the GSAT series is one of them. These satellites provide improved telecommunications and internet connectivity, especially in remote and rural areas. What this means is that with the help of this innovation, people in remote and rural areas can gain access to online services, education, information, and so much more. We use the internet daily and are very well aware of how heavily we are dependent on such services. It would go on to create economic opportunities, which in turn helps in reducing poverty.
ISRO’s development in remote sensing satellites, which include the resourcesat series and cartosat series, help agriculture by providing beneficial data. Farmers use the information and data collected to make agricultural decisions to increase productivity and hence, income.
ISRO’s satellites, along with the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), provide crucial help in case of natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes, etc. They can do that by using satellite imagery which rapidly assesses the damage and helps the local authorities in allocating resources and getting people to refuge. This not only saves lives but also reduces economic burden.
India has participated in international space collaborations which have enhanced India’s space capabilities and also promoted its diplomatic and economic ties. For instance, ISRO has launched 177 foreign satellites and in doing so, India contributed towards regional development and cooperation.
These, plus the fact that successful space missions such as Chandrayaan 3 make India an incredibly attractive nation to invest in/enter into trade with, are just a few examples of how space exploration has directly or indirectly helped the nation’s economy.
We must understand that these achievements of space exploration have given rise to various positive externalities for the poor and marginalized populations.
Education and Health
Space programs can be a great source of inspiration to young minds to pursue further education in the same field and will also help improve their skills. Space programs also provide important data that can help in medical purposes such as remote sensing, digital monitoring, etc.
This nascent field of space offers a huge benefit for the creation of new markets and industries such as satellite communications, remote sensing, and navigation, all of which can generate employment opportunities and income for the poor and underprivileged.
Eradication of poverty is immensely complicated and needs to be approached from various other crucial angles, such as education, appropriate policy-making, awareness, etc. However, we can not develop as a country if we focus solely on eradicating poverty and not growing in other areas. We must focus on simultaneous growth in all areas. Let’s accept that the beauty of space doesn’t exist simply in the stars, galaxies, and all its wonders, but also in its potential to help the civilization on the ground in so many ways!