Anna-sambar & the price of ISRO’s moon mission

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Two pieces of news concerning the Indian Satellite Research Organisation (ISRO) caught my eye recently.

Exhibit A: Former ISRO chief G. Madhavan Nair was quoted as saying that there were no takers for the voluminous data collected by the moon mission,  Chandrayan, which ultimately failed towards the end of its flight.

“We have a huge volume of data running into several terrabytes. Indian scientists have to wake up and chew on that,” Nair has told Deccan Herald. 80 Indian universities were approached by ISRO to respond to study grants that would have brought in the data analysis experts, but only four universities responded.

“We want to encourage Indian scientists to come forward to work on this, but there is a shortage.”

In other words, there is lots of data but not enough people to digest and analyse it and almost no interest from our so-called “oceans of learning” to get into the act.

Obviously, without meaningful analysis, all the data will be garbage.

***

Exhibit B: ISRO is planning to spend Rs 1,000 crore to set up a moon simulator laboratory on the outskirts of Bangalore near the new international airport.

“The 1000-crore facility will recreate the moon’s surface on earth which will help in getting a first-hand report of how a lunar rover works,” ISRO’S Chandrayan project director Annadorai has been quoted as saying by Bangalore Mirror.

“We are planning to create a small area which will look like the moon to test the lunar rover. With a simulator in place, it will be easy for us to understand the lunar rover’s path,” D. Sreekumar ISRO’s space astronomy group director says.

***

Many questions can be asked about both these pieces of news, but here’s just one.

With tur dal shooting beyond Rs 110 per kg, with the agriculture minister and the cabinet having no clue about how to combat rising food prices, with most of indices of health and education hovering at sub-saharan levels, do we need to cotinue with this moon exercise again?

We have made our point by setting out on a moon mission, but should it become our obsession?

US President Barack Obama has realised there are far more important things on earth to do and has cancelled their next scheduled manned project to moon.

Aren’t we splurging good money on irrelevant things, when there are hundreds of causes and issues crying out for urgent infusion of funds, like education of children, child labour or upliftment of urban poor children who need support than anything else?

Hottege hittilla, juttige mallige hoovu?

Also read: ‘A modern Indian pilgrimage to another world’

Who would you like to see on moon mission?