A few days ago Beyond Moon and Mars had pictured a sci fi scenario in which a Pak immigration official receives an Indian vyomanaut on the moon and offers him a Chinese lunch or dinner! This was an example, in a light hearted manner, just to warn that if India does not begin to fund its human space flight programme fast, then we should not be surprised if, by chance, Pak beats India in the long run--say around 2025--and arrives on the moon first, of course with the help of the Chinese since Pak's space capabilities are limited.
If this scenario turns into a reality it will prove a devastating psychological blow to the people of India and the country's image will take a beating. Let me quote from a confidential document what happened in the US soon after the Sputnik launch on October 4,1957.
According to this confidential document: ``American prestige is viewed as having sustained a severe blow, and the American reaction, as sharply marked by concern, discomfiture and intense interest, has itself increased the disquiet of friendly countries and increased the impact of the satellite.''
It says in the wake of the launch ``Mexican editors expressed diminished interest in USIS scientific feature articles, and frankly said that they were looking to Soviet sources for such material. In Teheran, officials of the Iranian government considered the satellite such a blow to US prestige that they displayed uneasy embarrassment in discussing it with the Americans. Representatives of the Western European Union Assembly meeting in Strasborough severely cricicised the US for falling behind in the arms race.''
The document says that following the launch the USSR has entered into a psychological warfare. ``To the extent there is any substantial public conclusion that the USSR is leading in military power, the USSR appears to speak from strength not weaknesses. This psychological advantage could be exploited whether in seeking a detente or attempting an expansionisist venture,'' it says.
Another document dated October 11.1957 of the National Security Council meeting quotes US secretary Quarles saying that after Sputnik launch the USSR ``have offered to co-operate with the United States and permit us to place our own instrumentation in one of their satellites. Our disposition is to find a good reason to refuse this offer. Since our own instrumentation is better and more eloborate than theirs, we would stand to lose more than we would gain by accepting their offer,'' he said.
Twenty-four hours after the Sputnik launch on October 5,1957, Dr Detlev Bronk, president of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a statement saying: ``Friendly competition as well as co-operation is a stimulus to achievement in science as in other forms of human endeavour. Because scientists are human they naturally wish to be first to achieve success in a scientific undertaking. But, all scientists are fellow explorers on the frontiers of knowledge, who rejoice and benefit in the discoveries and achievements of their colleagues. And so we of the United States congratulate Soviet scientists on their achievement of yesterday,'' the statement said.
On the very evening of the historic launch Hugh Odishaw, executive director, US National Committee for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of the National Academy of Sciences said: ``The launching of a USSR satellite as reported this evening, is of great scientific interest. We await with interest the definition of a specific orbit and details of their scientific investigation,'' he said.