Here is some good news folks. On Saturday evening while addressing the space community at the Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad, PM declared, to the delight of the large gathering ,that the government will support Isro's quest to ``better understand the solar system and universe, and in the continuing discovery of space.''
What does this mean? After making no reference to India's second unmanned mission to the moon, ``Chandrayaan-2,'' in his speech, it is strange that he has announced the government's support for Isro's quest of the solar system and the universe!
One possible interpretation of this is that Isro perhaps has received the government's backing for a mission to Mars and even to the asteroids. For quite some time Isro scientists have been quietly working, though at an informal level, on a mission to the Red Planet. In January 2011, there was even a workshop organised at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) on this topic.
But, for a variety of reasons this project has not taken off. One reason being cited for this delay is that the scientific community has yet to work out scientific proposals. The project has then to be cleared by the Space Commission. But, Singh's statement can be compared to strap ons in a rocket which will provide the additional boost to a mission to Mars.
Whatever it is India just cannot afford to ignore such a mission because Mars is emerging as a ground for competition and rivalry among space faring nations like the moon. There is a global race to Mars with Russia, China, the US the European Space Agency and even Japan heading towards it. In such a scenario cannot India afford to remain a silent spectator? No certainly not.
Taking advantage of the PM's assurance, ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM)'' feels that Isro should seriously start working on an unmanned scientific flight to Mars. In this connection Singh remarked: ``We will do all that is necessary to promote scientific discoveries and for Isro to remain at the cutting edge of technology. You will have the government's support in your quest to better understand the solar system and universe, and in the continuing discovery of space,'' he said.
Take full advantage of this assurance Isro and move ahead.
The question now is if a Mars mission is firmed up, will India go alone or team up with other countries.
Former Isro chief, Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, has always felt that considering the cost of such a project, it would be advisable for India to join hands with another country on a journey to Mars. But, again if such an opportunity comes, which country?
It is also possible that the PM has given the green signal for additional flights to the moon---Chandrayaan 3, 4 and 5--though this does not mean a manned landing on the moon. It could mean a sample return flight.
BMM repeats: Take advantage of the PM's statement and go forward.