"Our final aim will be Mars because Mars has economic value and the moon has material value."
—President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at the Aerospace Engineering Department, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, last week
From voyages of discovery to voyages of profit, Indian space scientists are exploring every prospect, perhaps even an Indonaut’s outing in the dark, distant heavens. This urge to hop on to the bandwagon of space-faring nations with megabuck budgets has overturned the modest intentions of a programme that originally vowed never to yearn for the moon. Ambitions are soaring beyond the moon, to grasp Mars. Such spectacular expeditions are certainly important for science and symbolism—a common perception among the scientists.
The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO’s) plans for a great leap skyward have been fired up by a number of factors. The most recent and significant one is the signal from the US on...