Friday, 29 March 2019

Why space technology?

Should government spend so much money in space technology?  Especially when there are other crying needs like food, education, health etc. 
Why at all Humans need to go out of earth?  We need more than a lifetime to see all the places on earth – land, let alone oceans and their depths which is more than twice as that of land.   Put together as a whole human race also, we haven’t yet seen the whole earth.
Are we wasting time, money and energy in developing space technology?

These are some of the questions that come to my mind when I think about space technology.  To answer them, I need to go into a hypothetical illustration.  Let us offer a person all the food, cloth, shelter, essential home gadgets including TV, mobile (which are of course using satellites incidentally).  Let’s also allow the person to socialize.  The only condition/rider to that person is that he/she should not do anything new.  After a point of time, it will suffocate the person !!!
Pioneering has always been an integral distinct instinct of Humans.  Inquisitive minds have resulted in discovering new worlds in both micro and macro levels.  We have ripped open matter into elements, atoms, protons, electrons, photons, bosons etc. and still literally continue splitting.  We have understood solar system, galaxy, super galaxy, universe etc. and still expanding the outer boundaries.   Some humans dive deep into the ocean, but others see through microscope and telescope.  There is no doubt that space technology is a natural corollary of the inquisitive human mind.

Now coming to the government spending on space technology… among other things, History shows that war is the time when a group of people come together and spend all that they have in building weapons of attack or protection.  Also, peace and stability happens ironically when one player emerges bigger than all others.  In the post cold war era, in a nuclear world, a country becomes a player when it has Inter Continental Ballistic Missile - ICBM capability.  Cryogenic engines and rocket launching with pay loads have defined that capability.  By investing in these technologies, a country gets the dual benefit of defense as well as space capabilities.

Though nowhere imminent, it also provides us a scope for finding an alternate place to live, in case of any disaster or complete exhaustion of all the resources in the earth.  The stories of Indian spice and el dorado has long attracted discoverers and voyagers.  Though no such stories about space are there as of now, we are trying to hear some such things through the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence – SETI.

Satellites are the most used products of space technology as of now.  If a satellite remains static vis a vis the earth’s rotation, they are called geo stationary satellites. With three such satellites, we can cover the entire earth and can triangulate any reference point in the earth.  That is called the GPS – global positioning system. In order to achieve stationary positioning and coverage, they need to be at a particular height where there is little or no effect of earth’s gravity.  Hence, these satellites are farther from earth surface and launching them needs higher capacity rockets like the GSLV – Geo stationary Satellite Launch Vehicles.
There are other satellites which are launched to orbit at lower heights.  Though these are predecessor for the geo stationary satellites, they are required even now, to get data about the atmosphere and earth surface.  They are generally used in weather forecasting and remote sensing.  Such satellites are called polar satellites, launched by lesser capacity rockets like the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles – PSLV.  Since they are in lower heights, they are subject to pull of earth’s gravity.  They continuously fall towards earth in a spiraling orbit and finally get burnt in space.

The most visible positive impact of space technology is the quantum improvement in the speed of communication.  While the first marathon runner had to physically run the distance to deliver the news about enemy movement, we can now share the distance run by us with our fellow marathoners around the world on a real time basis.  The world indeed has become a global village !!!

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