DURING the cold war, achievements in outer space were viewed as a power show and ideological reputation. For instance, when the Soviet Union did broadcast its first man-made satellite in 1957, the world took notice. The US followed the suit and won the race by achieving mankind’s first landing on the moon through its Apollo Mission.

Since then, however, dynamics have changed. Today countries like India and China link their outer space programmes not to be the global ‘firsts’ but to their economic development and diplomatic influence on the Earth.

India’s space programme is thriving as one of the fastest growing in the world. With its successful ‘Mars Mission’ and various other satellite launches, India is emerging as a new space power. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is now a go-to for countries like Japan, Germany, South Korea, and France.

Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) predates the Indian space programme by more than eight years. It was founded in 1961 while the ISRO launched in 1969. But today Suparco, being the first space agency, lags behind in all technological aspects which makes ISRO a potent force. Owing to lack of resources, mismanagement and bureaucratic hurdles, Pakistan’s space programme, especially when it is about commercial space exploration, has seen a considerable decline.

It is vital for Pakistan to understand and acknowledge the importance of a robust space programme. Doing so will not only help national and commercial space exploration but also provide Pakistan with significant economic and military gains, needed to compete with a resurgent and dominant neighbour.

Asad Hussain

Lahore

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2018

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