By Staff Correspondent
As the world grapples with the myriad challenges and opportunities presented by space, India finds itself at a crossroads. The G20 Summit of 2023, held in New Delhi, was a pivotal moment, not just for international diplomacy but also for the cosmic ambitions of India. The bilateral talks between United States President Joseph Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled potential collaborations in planetary defence, a domain of critical importance.
However, the discussions also exposed a gaping void in India’s preparedness for cosmic threats and participation in interplanetary explorations. This article delves into the imperatives for India to bolster its planetary defence mechanisms and venture boldly into interplanetary missions.
Addressing The Cosmic Shield: A Call For Planetary Defence
The announcement during the G20 Summit spotlighted planetary defence, highlighting the urgent need for India to forge a robust strategy to shield its territories from potentially hazardous objects (PHOs). The US extended support for Indian institutions to partake in asteroid detection and tracking via the Minor Planet Center. While this gesture is commendable, it stops short of a comprehensive bilateral engagement with NASA’s Planetary Defence Coordination Office, an entity vital for survey, threat analyses, and response mechanisms.
India’s conspicuous absence from key international bodies such as the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) is concerning. While nations like China, the US, and even Pakistan are active members, India’s lack of participation hinders its ability to assess threats, respond aptly, and engage in disaster mitigation. India’s strategic and scientific establishments must break the silos, fostering seamless communication and cooperation to safeguard national security and contribute to global efforts against cosmic threats.
Planetary defense efforts of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), of which the DART mission is one component and the first mission being flown by the PDCO. (Credit: NASA)
Embarking On An Interplanetary Odyssey
Simultaneously, India’s space ambitions must extend beyond Earth’s boundaries. The past decade has witnessed Indian space companies expressing interest in the global commercial space sector. However, a true awakening towards commercial interplanetary missions is still on the horizon.
The global space industry is on the cusp of explosive growth, with technologies stemming from interplanetary missions offering a plethora of economic and strategic benefits. For India, this is an opportune moment to harness space technologies as strategic assets, propelling technological growth, scientific research, and national security. The spin-offs from research and development (R&D) in interplanetary missions can create employment, stimulate various sectors, and enhance India’s international stature.
A New Paradigm: Strategy & Cooperation
India stands at a cosmic juncture. The path forward requires a dual-pronged strategy. Domestically, a comprehensive national security-oriented strategy is imperative, akin to NASA’s Planetary Defence Coordination Office, involving stakeholders across the spectrum. Internationally, India must actively participate in the IAWN and SMPAG, ensuring a seat at the table and contributing to global efforts in planetary defence.
Simultaneously, the nation must embolden its foray into interplanetary missions. Encouraging private participation, investing in R&D, and fostering innovation will not only elevate India’s space industry but also contribute to global understanding of the cosmos.
India’s journey in space is at a pivotal moment. The imperatives are clear: fortify planetary defences and boldly venture into interplanetary explorations. By doing so, India can safeguard its territories, contribute to global efforts, stimulate economic growth, and solidify its position as a significant player in the international space arena. The time for India to act is now, ensuring a secure and prosperous future both on Earth and in the cosmos.