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2008: A Space Odyssey: India eyeing chunk of cosmic pie

2008: A Space Odyssey: India eyeing chunk of cosmic pie

Hyderabad: About 2,000 scientists and delegates from the US, Europe, Russia, China and India, including heads of space agencies from these countries, are in Hyderabad to attend the the 58th International Space Conference (ISC). The city is also home to India’s satellite mapping centre.

Satellite and launch companies such as Boeing Corporation, SAFRAN of France and Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd are also here to hardsell their capabilities in the annual space conference, which is being held in India only for the second time in the last two decades.

The event coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first man-made satellite in space — The erstwhile Soviet Union achieved this distinction by sending Sputnik-1 into orbit. The conference also assumes importance as the spotlight in space exploration shifts away from traditional players such as the US, Russia and Europe, to emerging players such as India and China.

India, which will launch a spacecraft (Chandrayaan-1) to the Moon by April 2008, is also planning a manned space mission by 2014. It also plans to send rovers to explore Mars and other planets over the next two decades.

China, which has undertaken two manned space missions, aims to land a man on the Moon by 2020.

The two Asian powers have embarked on several space programmes and aim to garner a share of the multi-billion dollar space market.

"Space no more belongs to the elite club (US and Russia), and today you also have China and India. About 90% of the world thinks only the US and Russia are space-faring nations. Here is an opportunity for us to tell the world that developing countries such as China and India are also established space powers," said Jean Jacques Dordain, Director-General of the European Space Agency.

The five-day event event will deliberate on the theme "Touching Humanity: Space for improving the quality of life," a reflection of India’s four-decade focus on building applications that help in forecasting crop produce, identifying water resources and connecting remote areas with super speciality hospitals by building satellite-based telemedicine centres.

"We know the market is dominated by the US. And now, with China investing heavily in the development of its programmes, it becomes important for India to set a higher national agenda and encourage public-private partnerships. It is essential to bring the minds of researchers and marketers together or we will be left behind," said G Madhavan Nair, chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation, in a statement ahead of the event.

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