Two days before the launch of India's first lunar orbiter, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) G. Madhavan Nair said on Monday that India will plant its flag on the moon to help establish its presence on the earth's only natural satellite.
India will drop its flag on the moon to establish its presence, Nair told NDTV in an interview. This will make India the fourth country after the US, Russia, and Japan to have its flag on the moon.
Asked for the geopolitical reason behind the planting of the flag, Nair said: "Today, as per the international charter, the moon belongs to the global community. Nobody can make special claim on the surface. But in due course, we don't know how things will change. But our presence will be established through this mission."
Nair also reiterated in the interview that ISRO planned to put a man in space by 2015. "If certain finer observation are to be made, online decisions have to be made, the presence of man becomes important," he said.
"The man behind the instrument. And also the reaction time for any decision will be a fraction of a second, whereas you know it takes almost eight seconds for the data to come from the moon to the earth and then again sent back and so on, and here also somebody has to analyse....so ultimately if you want to do a perfect experiment, man behind the instrument is a must."
Nair said it would cost around Rs.100 billion to put a man in space. However, he added, "in the Indian context we are committed to taking the space technology for grass root applications. We have done that and we will continue to do so. So nearly 80 percent of the budget is going to be spent on programmes which are relevant to the common man."
The lunar orbiter mission Chandrayaan that will be launched Wednesday will look for water on the moon, Nair confirmed. "If you are thinking of establishing lunar colony, water is essential element for that and if from it you can generate oxygen, and also if you can decompose and generate into fuel which is required for interplanetary travel, so the presence of water is a very-very important element for further exploration."
Nair also confirmed that the mission would look for Helium-3, one of the fuels for nuclear fusion. "Even one tonne of that can sustain the entire country's energy for one year," he pointed out. Reiterating that there was Helium-3 on the moon, he added: "Is it in abundant quantity, whether we can exploit, these are question marks."
The ISRO chief said that after the moon, the organisation had its sights set on Mars. "The GSLV can take a nearly 500 kg spacecraft to Mars. So if there are good ideas about experimental exploration of that system we can have the Mars mission and in about 3-4 years."
"If we want to maintain our leadership naturally we have to have the scientific goals which is set ahead so that we can be really either at par or ahead of the others in some of the fields. So this is a really challenging task. We believe that India, such a big nation, huge resources, both natural and human resource... we should be in leadership position as far as our space technology is concerned."
Asked if the space programme was cost effective, Nair said that for every rupee spent, ISRO gave back Rs.1.50 to the Indian society. "That is the first part of it. The second part is, the human resource and the technology we create, that is not valued. That is tremendous."
Asked if India have a colony on the moon sometime, Nair said: "We cannot lag behind others in this race. We have to really catch up and we should have our own technology for the manned capsule.
"Of course initial thing would be around earth itself, then from there how to send a man to the moon etc has to be considered. And today with the economic growth what you are seeing in the country this is affordable.
"And a very small fraction of the national budget we spend on space technology. It is really worth it. In fact if you take the entire budget for the space programme it is like 0.2-0.3 (percent) of the national budget. So it is very small compared to .... others are using even up to 2 percent or 3 percent."