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Pakistan started space programme 8 years before India, today ISRO is galaxies ahead

INDIAPOSITIVE

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The year is 1961. A charismatic new president John F Kennedy has just taken oath in the United States, the Soviet Union has put the first man in space and a little-known band called the Beatles is playing its first show in England.

But something equally momentous is happening in Pakistan, where globally renowned physicist Abdus Salam is convincing president Ayub Khan to set up a national space agency, the first in the subcontinent. In September that year, Salam sets up the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) headquartered in Karachi – a full eight years before neighbour India formalises its own space agency.

The initial years of the agency are buoyed by hope. Four top scientists are sent to the Nasa to study space technology and Salam’s growing stature in the scientific world – he would win the Physics Nobel Prize in 1979 – help attract talent to the nascent organisation.

In 1962, Suparco launches its first rocket, Rehbar I, from a range off the Karachi coast with help from Nasa, a year before India’s first rocket would blast off from the Thumba launching station. Pakistan becomes the third Asian country to launch rockets after Israel and Japan.

But despite its head start, the Suparco today is decades behind the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in both mission success and technological prowess.

ISRO broke a world record by sending 104 satellites to space Ron Wednesday – in contrast, Suparco is not expected to have indigenous satellite launching and producing technology for at least two decades and the target it has set itself is 2040. India plans to reach Venus and revisit Mars by then, if not more.

But what happened to the subcontinent’s oldest space agency? The answer lies in a concoction of government apathy, poor education funding and an overarching military leadership dictating scientific goals.

In the 1970s, ISRO accelerates its technological and scientific intake in the run up to the first satellite launch Aryabhatta-I in 1975.



But Suparco is already falling behind as the government shifts attention to the atomic bomb project, shifting key resources and scientists out of the space agency. The only high point of the decade is a visit by Apollo 17 astronauts. Pakistan would launch its first satellite, Badr I, only in 1990 with Chinese assistance.

But the real fall comes in the 1980s and 1990s. First, President Zia-ul-Haq cuts off funding to major projects, including the flagship satellite communication launch. Then, military generals are placed atop the organisation, replacing scientists and the focus of the agency becomes countering India, rather than independent research.

At the same time, the government disowns Salam for being Ahmadiyya and shuns all assistance that one of 20th century’s most important theoretical physicists could have offered. This affects the production of indigenous technology that is the backbone of ISRO or any modern agency, and makes Suparco dependent on foreign doles.

In contrast, ISRO launches its first communications satellite, starts technology sharing programmes with several countries and unveils a remote sensing satellite system that is now the largest in the world. The agency is also successful in attracting talent, helped by its autonomy and scientists at the helm.

Today, Suparco continues to hurt, mainly from crunched education funding that is the lowest in south Asia and continued military supervision.

Its current chairman -- Qaiser Anees Khurrum – is a former top general. The agency has suffered a series of embarrassing failures in recent decades. It has had to give up orbital slots because it couldn’t launch in time, its first satellite was leased from the US and its second was launched in as late as 2011.

The agency is now pinning its hopes on a Mission 2040 – by when it aims to have indigenous satellite making and launching capabilities – but whether it will meet its target is anyone’s guess.

(The author studied the space exploration history as part of a masters course in astrophysics and space science. He tweets @dhrubo127)


http://www.hindustantimes.com/india...axies-ahead/story-uZW0NQG5Qmxa1o2QM8M8SL.html
 

Vapnope

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When you declare the nationalists as agents of CIA, MI6 and whatnot these things are bound to happen. Pakistan did not honor the hero Abdus Salam, the result is clear.
 

Aawish

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I hate to say but Pakistan Army really destroyed this public institute which once had bright prospects. :(
 

Deadpool

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The only thing I find troubling is Indian media and people trying to 'feel good' by comparing with Pakistan.

They are loathe to compare with China which is ahead in the space race in a number of key technologies.
 

Terminator

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Still not late for Pakistan, it can catch up, unless it pumps the resources in positive and right channels.
 

AyanRay

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At the same time, the government disowns Salam for being Ahmadiyya and shuns all assistance that one of 20th century’s most important theoretical physicists could have offered.
That's Sick. In contrast we APJ became the most loved person in India.
 

Riz

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India is still behind, they cant compete our leaders in making money, our Pm nawaz shirf is having such a magical pair of hands, everything turn to gold which he touched so for, his kids are billionaires while he himself is dependent, they have industries in several countries but they never used banks to transfer the money
 

AnGrz_Z_K_Jailer

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India is still behind, they cant compete our leaders in making money, our Pm nawaz shirf is having such a magical pair of hands, everything turn to gold which he touched so for, his kids are billionaires while he himself is dependent, they have industries in several countries but they never used banks to transfer the money
^^^^^^
You're partially correct here. It is true politians are corrupt in subcontinent and they're easy target too to throw all the blames and we expect them to take all blame BUT how about armforce / military establishment are they exempt for accountibilty (Ehtesaab, Ad'al) ??? Do you believe politicians are only responsible for the caos in Pakistan and all man in uniforms are saints?

Bro. How can someone achieve accountability without balance?

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Jailer
 

livingdead

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The only thing I find troubling is Indian media and people trying to 'feel good' by comparing with Pakistan.

They are loathe to compare with China which is ahead in the space race in a number of key technologies.
I have to agree, chinese space agency is years ahead of us...
 

livingdead

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^^^
True but does this give them full right to spout nonsense for other achievements? Don't you think PRC, Chinese media and Chinese getting paranoid about anything happened in India?

Regards,
Jailer
not really? is our media paranoid when we sh*t on pakistani achievement.. calling it paint job? why do you expect foreign media to be completely without any criticism of our program
the chinese article referred to in other thread it bang on, if you for a moment forget that it was written by chinese.
 

AnGrz_Z_K_Jailer

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not really? is our media paranoid when we sh*t on pakistani achievement.. calling it paint job? why do you expect foreign media to be completely without any criticism of our program
the chinese article referred to in other thread it bang on, if you for a moment forget that it was written by chinese.
^^^

True and thank you very much for correcting me. It is over 5 years now I have stopped watching Indian news channel especially news in Hindi. I prefer reading The Hindu online.

Regards,
Jailer
 

Zaki

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Well our priorities were different. The GDP of about 40% disappeared after fall of Dhaka if my memory is correct about the figures...

We fought with India twice during 1965 and 1971 and the funds were allocated to more urgent matters after the war and the focus was same for the following decades

I don't mind if we reach space after half of the world for as long as we are able to ensure law n order, life improvement and border security within the geographical boundaries on earth
 

Deltaviper

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This is the sad truth and nothing but. We need to develop key capabilities in the civilian sector. Otherwise we will always be playing a catching up game!

Need focus on key technological and national prestige Projects. This will give us some of the lost pride. Furthermore, Just like Naval power and control of the high seas transformed countries and built empires in the 19th and 20th century. Today, the same is true for space exploration. We ignored shipbuilding then and are paying for it today, trying to catch up... We are still not too late (or perhaps it is my optimism) when it comes to the space age, just need to buckle up, and start marching ahead with a clear focus.
 

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