Madhavan Nair talking to The Peninsula (Salim Matramkot)
DOHA: A celebrated Indian space scientist who has recently created a controversy by dubbing his country’s Mars mission as a publicity stunt, was here on a brief visit.
G Madhavan Nair reiterated yesterday that there indeed was certain hype associated with India’s Mars mission, hinting that its only significance lay in the technology of distant space travel.
It would be a 56 million kilometres of travel into blind space, he said of the Mars mission in remarks to The Peninsula yesterday.
Known as India’s ‘Moon Man’, a former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Nair oversaw India’s first imaging mission to the moon a few years ago.
Considered a leading technologist in the field of rocket systems, he catapulted India into the space-faring nations in launch vehicle technology.
Nair was here at the invitation of an Indian community organisation, Samanvayam, to preside over an event involving school students and some science competition.
India’s Mars mission has come in for scathing criticism from various quarters, among others from Nair himself, for extravagance and poor planning.
“We have to study Mars from close quarters,” he said, implying that India’s current mission lacked extensive preparations with that objective in mind.
He, however, defended India’s spending on its space programme and said it was a pittance when compared to the food security plan envisaged for the poor, for example.
“India will be spending billions of dollars a year on providing subsidised food to the poor, whereas the budget for its space programme is merely $648m,” he said when asked if the spending on space explorations was justified as the country still had massive pockets of poverty.
“We need to strike a balance,” said Nair talking of the need for India to diversify its spending, suggesting that funding space and scientific explorations was as much necessary as feeding the poor.
Talking of the Mars mission (Mangalyaan) he said its cost was about $70m, or Rs4bn.
When told that the second moon mission (Chandrayaan-2) plans of the ISRO, a brainchild of his when he was at the helm, had been shelved, Nair said that was not true. Once the GSLV rocket systems are perfected, Chandrayaan-2 would be launched — sometime in 2015 or 2016, he said.