UK hails India’s moon mission

October 25, 2008

UK hails India’s moon mission

Press Trust of India
Thursday, October 23, 2008 7:21 PM (London)

“Bravo”, said the British government and the reaction of this country’s media to the launch of “Chandrayaan I”, with the exception of BBC, was summed up by a newspaper headline “Moon Mission takes India’s aspirations right out of this world”.

The BBC questioned such “waste of resources in a country where millions still lack basic services”.

“Bravo, we are delighted to see it (the successful launch of India’s maiden unmanned moon mission),” Lord Malloch Brown, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister in charge of Africa, Asia and UN, said.

India has now joined the 1,000 mile high club and it is a demonstration of India’s growing technological prowess, said Lord Brown, who paid a two-day visit to India last week.

The Times wrote an editorial to say that the “Moonshot” underlines a point also made by the global downturn — that India deserves a permanent UN Security Council seat and is not a power to be ignored.

The newspaper devoted nearly three pages to the event and put the video of the launch on its website. Other leading newspapers and television channels played the news of the moon mission prominently highlighting the joyous reaction of the people in India.

The BBC, which also broadcast the news prominently, however, patronisingly quoted unnamed critics who “regard the space programme as a waste of resources in a country where millions still lack basic services”.

As if to answer the BBC skepticism, The Times quoted a salesman from Delhi Rajiv Kapoor as saying, “poverty and hunger will always remain by the time the government would try to eradicate them completely, the world itself would have vanished.”

“Few questioned the cost, despite the vast sums still needed to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. Even the poor expressed joy at an achievement remarkable for a country that was regularly swept by famine only 60 years ago. The space operation is ostensibly about mapping the Moon’s surface, looking for helium-3 and broadening India’s commercial space programme.

“In fact, as politicians and the public understand, it is more about responding to China’s first space walk last month and the unmanned probes launched by both China and Japan last year,” The Times editorial said.

“There is an element of rivalry, but each country has a mix of motivations,” said Bates Gill, Director of the Stockholm Peace Research Institute. “It’s a combination of national prestige and the spin-offs for technology. The third aspect is the military one. The ultimate high ground: space.”

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