Tuesday, April 12, 2011

50 years after Yuri, India still on its slow climb

Rakesh Sharma
At a time when the world is set to raise a toast to Yuri Gagarin on the 50th anniversary of his trail-blazing flight into space, Indian cosmonaut Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma has one lament: a holdup in the indigenous human spaceflight programme.

The cosmonaut, is disappointed with what he described as a “cooling off” of the programme after its launch in 2007. “The reverses must be addressed and the rocket should be man-rated (certified safe for humans) by Isro,” he told Deccan Chronicle.

His disappointment with the slow progress of the programme comes at a time when China is stepping up its space missions with an orbiting space lab, to be launched later this year. Weighing nearly 19,000 lbs, the unmanned Tiangong 1 module will be launched aboard a Long March 2F rocket from Jiuquan space centre in the Gobi desert.

As space buffs across the world celebrate the 50th year of Yuri Gagarin's trail-blazing flight into space, scientists and cosmonauts are set to chant the icon’s call “Poyekhali,” or “here we go” and advance from an era of voyages of discovery, to voyages of profit.

Their ambitions are soaring beyond the Moon and Mars — not merely for science, symbolism and glamour — but for the benefit of humankind. Energy from space, efficient methods of identification and management of water resources, and fail-safe security systems for every nation, will be within reach. For once, sci-fi writers could be proved right, albeit through a joint effort, circa 2030.

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