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Pranathi Asked: Will Mars Orbiter Mission outpace China's space dominance over India?

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  • Ajey Lele replies: The Chinese space programme is much more advanced than the Indian programme. China succeeded in putting its astronaut in space a decade ago in 2003, whereas India has no immediate plan for manned space mission. Shortly, they would be launching their third mission to Moon where a robot would be actually landing on the Moon, while it may take some more time for India to launch its second Moon mission. Also, China has a satellite navigation programme with global reach, which is not the case with India.

    In spite of the above, some believe that India is in a space race with China. It is important to appreciate that “space race” is essentially a Cold War era concept. In the 21st century, for a nation like India, “pragmatism” is the key when deciding on its geopolitical priorities. For India, space is of importance for social and economic reasons. India's space programme is India-specific and not China-specific. It would be naive to think that just because a Chinese satellite could not make it to Mars, India is trying to race with China.

    For more on India’s Mars mission, please refer to Ajey Lele’s following recent publications:

    Ajey Lele, “The late beginner advantage”, Indian Express, November 11, 2013.

    Ajey Lele, Mission Mars: India's Quest for the Red Planet, Springer, 2013.