On July 20, 1969, astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first people to walk on the moon. Their mission aboard the lunar module Eagle represents one of the monumental scientific achievements in human history. NASA accomplished something truly spectacular with its Apollo program. Over the course of nine years and 17 missions, they ushered in a new era of space exploration.
Spurred on by competition with America during the Cold War and the Space Race, the USSR’s own space program was responsible for a number of astronomical firsts. The country’s Voskhod program perfected many techniques and technologies integral to the continued exploration of space. Their advancements led to the first extravehicular spacewalk.
Since end of the Space Race, governments around the world have formed space agencies of their own. Many major countries have contributed to the development and success of the International Space Station. Canada, Japan, the United States, the Russian Federation, as well as eleven states of the European Space Agency are all involved in the ISS.
Despite this spirit of collaboration, individual nations still seek to make their own marks on outer space. Today, 13 countries have space agencies capable of launch. However, it is Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) that has made headlines as of late. Their plans for the next decade are ambitious and portend the rapid development of space programs throughout the subcontinent and East Asia.
What Has ISRO Accomplished?
Founded in 1969, the Indian Space Research Organization replaced the Indian National Committee for Space Research. The organization successfully developed a satellite, Aryabhata, which was subsequently launched by the Soviet Union in 1975. Five years later, India launched Rohini, their first satellite launched with an Indian-made launch vehicle.
In the 21st century, India has continued to make strides in space exploration technology. October 2008 saw the success of the ISRO’s first lunar orbiter. With ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission, the space agency successfully launched a probe into Martian orbit and the first to ever do so on its first attempt.
Thanks to developments made by ISRO, technology has improved that has allowed the country to set a number of world records related to space exploration. Last year, they launched 20 satellites in a single load. Less than a year later, they beat their own record by launching 104 satellites all at once.
The Future of ISRO
Though its illustrious history is full of accomplishment, India’s space agency is not content to rest on its laurels. They plan for a number of advancements in the near future. These include human spaceflight, development of reusable launch vehicles, interplanetary probes, solar spacecraft missions, and a controlled soft lunar landing. The last of these is by far most important when talking about the New Space Race taking place throughout Eurasia. Up until now, only the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and Europe have made it to the moon’s surface in any form.
These ambitions hint at a space program that is rapidly growing. India have set their sights to return to Mars in the next five to seven years. The country’s space agency also plans to launch probes to study Venus. Researchers expect the Indian Venusian orbiter missions to get underway some time after 2020. First among the goals of these missions, which researchers expect to take about a year, is the analysis and observation of the planet’s atmosphere. Not only that but the mission is something of a milestone for the Indian Space Research Organization, allowing them to stake a firm claim in outer space.
Contrary to the country’s sovereign plans, representatives of the Indian government and ISRO continue to stress the importance of international cooperation. Right now, India has more than 200 agreements in place with over 40 countries regarding space exploration. They cite the planned Chandrayaan-2 mission as evidence of how important working together is. Experts hope that the mission, one on which India and Japan work together, will to return to the moon’s surface by March 2018.
The evidence for a new age of space exploration is clear. What does this mean for the future of humanity? Do you think that things like getting humans to Mars or setting up bases on the lunar surface will improve relations in the international community? Or, like some experts, do you think that this interest in getting to outer space is only a way to assert geopolitical and economic dominance? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts and discuss the future of space exploration.