India is a rapidly developing economy with a rising interest in space travel, and it has already achieved great strides with its first few planetary exploration missions. In the past ten years, many Indian space companies have shown tremendous interest in participating in the global commercial space sector, offering solutions with unique selling aspects. However, despite a national call, as mentioned during the announcement of 2020 space reforms, an awakening to ignite interest in commercial interplanetary missions is yet to happen.
Going beyond the sphere of influence of the Earth can present India’s economy, technological growth, and scientific research with a treasure trove of new prospects.
Global technology pundits are forecasting explosive growth in the space industry. This growth is not limited to space launches or constellations, but communication systems, communication robots, artificial intelligence, and propulsion systems, all products of interplanetary missions. These technologies are not simply in it for economic consideration; space technologies such as propulsion, launch, and communication are strategic assets that may help ensure the country’s security. As Dr Kalam noted, “Strength respects Strength,” which rings true in a multi-aligned and fractured world. In such a fragile global environment, space technology has the potential to be a crucial differentiator in the quest of any nation to exercise influence or power.
The technologies spin-offing from research and development going in interplanetary missions has the potential to substantially contribute to expanding the technology industry in India and producing new employment opportunities. The success of India’s interplanetary missions can elevate the country’s profile on the international scene and solidify its position as a significant participant in the international space arena. It also makes it possible for India to use space as an instrument for diplomacy, aiming to uplift and promote countries in the global south.
The advancement of interplanetary missions has the potential to contribute to scientific research by unravelling the secrets of our solar system. This may be accomplished by researching the geology, atmosphere, and climate of other planets and moons in the solar system. The research output derived from these works can significantly shape the future of the companies assisting the R&D of interplanetary missions and make them more consequential to India’s global economic footprint. Indian private companies, especially those from the information technology, life sciences, and electronics sectors, should partake in interplanetary missions to assist in the hunt for life beyond Earth and allow us to inquire further about life elsewhere outside the Earth.
It is a well-known fact that space paves the way for establishing several spin-offs and has an influence that ripples across the entirety of the value chain as a trickle-down effect. Missions to other planets call for substantial innovations in engineering and science, which, in turn, can stimulate research and development activity in different sectors, leading to discoveries and ground-breaking accomplishments. A significant portion of the technology created for use in the space industry has made its way into everyday objects and activities. For example, booking a taxi or ordering your go-to dish from your favourite restaurant online? Thank the space industry for helping to make it possible! The development of highly advanced technologies that are aimed at the creation of interplanetary missions has the potential to contribute to the expansion of the Indian space industry, entice private investment, and generate new employment opportunities in fields that are related to the industry, such as engineering, material science, computing, communication, food technology, data analysis, machine learning and software development.
Investing in interplanetary missions can provide India numerous benefits, including improving technology, new scientific discoveries to our country’s credit, increasing national status, and economic prosperity. Even though these missions are challenging and require ample funding and a significant amount of skill, they can help India establish itself as a premier spacefaring nation and increase our contributions to humanity’s understanding of the cosmos. India can start by encouraging private companies to develop commercial R&D arms and accommodate these companies in the conceptualised space missions to the Moon, Mars and elsewhere.
(The author is a space economy and technology scholar. Views are personal.)