EX SAMEEKSHA – BOOK REVIEW
QUEST FOR SPACE: THE INDIAN CONNECT
BRIGADIER RAJATH JAIRATH
1. Space has always fascinated humans from historic times. There has always been a quest to know about the origin of our planet Earth, the solar system, celestial bodies and the Universe. Although a few old time astronomers have made many significant revelations about the mysteries of stars and constellations, the enigma of space was unravelled only in the latter part of the previous millennium with the advent of technology. The space age truly dawned on us in the 20th century with Russians launching the Sputnik satellite in 1957. Space over the past six decades has reached a stage that just about every facet of human life today has some complement of its capability contributing to it, encompassing the entire spectrum from telecommunications weather forecasting, remote sensing, broadcasting and disaster management. The progress in this technology has taken a fast pace and India too has made a significant progress in the field. The Indian space program has progressed from its humble beginnings to a massive program with a myriad of satellites in the earth’s orbit. The highlight of the Indian space program has been to achieve these heights of success at a fraction of cost compared to other space agencies in the world. Space technology has placed India in an elite group of nations with the capability of exploring the outer space. The Chandrayan, Mars Orbiter Mission and Chandrayaan-2, Gaganyaan mission on the horizon, India certainly has taken rapid strides in the realm of planetary research and exploration.
2. Brigadier Rajat Jairath, an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, was commissioned into the Army Air Defence branch in June 1981. An alumnus of the prestigious Defence Services Staff College, he is a post-graduate in Strategic and Defence Studies from Madras University and holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Personnel Management. He has served as an instructor in the Army Air Defence College. He has commanded an Air Defence Regiment in the Western Theatre and an Air Defence Brigade in a Strike Corps. He is a regular contributor to defence related journals and magazines.
3. The book has been introduced by Air Marshal Vinod Patney (Retd). The author covers the full ambit of the studies of space, its various issues, explorations, advantages and the dangers in the 21st century. He also offers a broad perspective on the issues, which concern and threat the environment of space. The book starts with the basics of space and the various terminologies used to make the reader understand in a simplified manner. The book is divided into eight chapters. The introductory chapter discusses the initial years and the various applications of space. It explains the importance of the theory behind launching of satellites in the orbits, in general terms that familiarize the reader with the sciences of lunching it from the earth and practical dimensions of gaining the space. The chapter clearly defines the layout of the book and what the reader could expect in the subsequent chapters.
4. The second chapter mentions the initial use of hot air balloons to capture high grounds and their application as the art of war fighting. The rise of rocketry during and after WW II covering legends like Goddard, Korolov, Oberth, Tsiolovsky and Von Braun and their contribution to the development of rocketry for both war and peace are highlighted. The book also explains the initial launch of satellites and the start of the space race between Soviet Union and United States of America with the launch of Sputnik I in 1957. The chapter also deals with the types of satellites and their application giving the reader a broad outlook. The third section broadly mentions the rise of space exploration and its importance with other countries like France, Japan, China, Israel, Iran, and Korea. The author provides a brief perspective and historical profiling of these countries also called as the ‘second wave’ of spacefaring entrants in the emerging field of space. He also highlights the achievements of these countries and the road to military use of space. This part of the book also gives a special emphasis on the china’s space program and its explosive growth towards new and rapid developments in this field. It gives a broad overview of the space programs of the other nations and the support in terms of technology given by the erstwhile Soviet Union and US.
5. The fourth chapter deals with the evolution of Indian Space Program. The important evolutionary events post Independence, which gave a new impetus to science and technology development. It mentions that in light of the meagre resources available the Indian space program had humble beginnings. The role of Pandit Nehru, the then Prime Minister in putting India on the Space Map is discussed at length and the contributions of Dr Vikram Sarabhai to lead Indian National Committee on Space Research that later became ISRO. The author has explained the entire space program in a detailed and chronological order. He has discussed in depth about the various developments in regards to satellites their timelines, events and the building up of infrastructure in addition to the development in the field of launch vehicles. The author also has mentioned in detail of the various satellites and programme in progress with the other future prospects. However, most of the future programs and missions mentioned have already completed or in progress as the book is a 2014 edition. The use of space for military and its importance in Indian context has been very limited which could have been highlighted. He brings about the fact of the maturity of the space program into a multi-dimensional one benefiting diverse stakeholders and being self reliant, contributing significantly to the economy. This chapter is entirely dedicated to the Indian context of space, however the same could have had a mention in the early part of the book.
6. The fifth and the sixth chapter the author mentions the threat vulnerabilities and the space laws with regards to the space treaties and also its flaws. He highlights the use of Anti Satellite (ASAT) weapons and the various threats emanating from man made activities. He also mentions the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the International Space Law, which have been silent on use of potential weapons in space. The author has been able to bring about the various difficulties and issues in respect of the outer space in clear terms. The inability of space laws and treaties to prohibit militarisation of outer space and the use of vehicles from carrying conventional ordnance has been emphasised with a detailed description. The seventh chapter also talks about the security aspects of space and its legalities with special mention to the growing reliance to the military satellites from their initial origin to their use in performing various roles. The later part of the chapter covers in detail about the space treaties however, lacks mention of the Indian connect and its roles.
7. The final chapter analyses the technological capability of India, its journey from the past six decades to enter the elite groups of nations with the capability of exploring the outer space. It also offers an insight into some of the forthcoming challenges India is likely to encounter in its endeavours in space, at both domestic and global levels. The author concludes that chapter by attempting to identify the drivers that would shape the evolving global order in the coming years and the alternatives in Indian context to leverage them into national capability building to suits its national interests.
8. The book is written in a very simple and lucid manner, which can be read by a layman too. The language is simple and the chapters are well connected with a seamless flow thought. The author has been able to keep the interest alive by making the readers aware of the significant contribution of the other countries in space technology and their significance, which rather has very little mention. The author has covered a vast canvass in the book and has touched upon various issues from the genesis of space to the vast expanse and the limiting factors. The introduction and initial portion of the book is thought provoking and interesting and each chapter includes historical references dating back to ancient times leading to the current state and the future prospects. The book gives the reader a balanced understanding of the subject and is highly recommended for all personnel interested in learning about the space issues. For the immense value and knowledge it adds, the book is well worth the price it commands.