Archive for November, 2008

The peacock HAS landed

November 15, 2008

Not premature anymore.

The Chandrayaan moon orbiter, launched from India just over three weeks ago, has dropped off a moon impact probe. It landed at 3:01pm GMT (8:31 India Standard Time) on Friday November 14 2008.

India still receives overseas aid for supposedly being a backward, poor country. I’ve no doubt that there are people living in poverty, but the evidence is pretty strong that the world’s largest democracy is doing more than OK.

Am I surprised that Indian scientists and engineers have delivered the Chandrayaan? Not one bit. I remember in about 1983, when I was still at school near the Science Museum, in London, there was the casing of an Indian rocket displayed on the outside of the building. I think it was actually a long-range ballistic missile.

I remember thinking that India must be capable of building space rockets and wondering when we’d see lots of countries with space programs.

I am surprised the Indian government has become sufficiently unsclerotic to allow a project of this kind to succeed. Unkind people have suggested the vulture, not the peacock, would be a more apt national bird for India. Today, such cynicism can be binned.

France certainly has the technology and will (if needed) to match India’s space program. The Ariane is essentially a French rocket with other people chipping in cash, as far as I can tell. I may be knocking the U.K., but I can’t imagine this country getting a vehicle to the Moon without U.S. or European money and know-how.

Meanwhile, the private sector is finally having a go too.

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