"He called for developing this expertise in space technology in our developmental process. For social change, economic development, and resource conservation. "
By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh), June 30 - Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday called for developing a SAARC satellite that can be dedicated to our neighbourhood as a gift from India.

Following the successful launch of five foreign satellites by an Indian rocket, a visibly elated Modi said: Today, I ask our space community to take up the challenge of developing a SAARC satellite - that we can dedicated to our neighbourhood, as a gift from India.

A satellite, that provides a full range of applications and services, to all our neighbours. I also ask you to enlarge the footprint of our satellite-based navigation system, to cover all of South Asia, said Modi.

Minutes earlier, he applauded as the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) standing 44.4 metres tall and weighing around 230 tonnes tore into the morning skies with orange flames fiercely burning at its tail.

The rocket's main luggage was the 714-kg French earth observation satellite SPOT-7.

Piggybacking with it were the four small satellites viz: 14-kg AISAT of Germany; NLS7.1 (CAN-X4) and NLS7.2 (CAN-X5) from Canada each weighing 15 kg; and the 7-kg VELOX-1 of Singapore.

Modi said that we have perfectly placed 5 satellites into their orbits 660 km above the Earth.

India's advanced space programme puts her in an elite global group of 5-6 countries today. This is one domain in which we are at the international cutting edge. A domain in which we have pushed beyond mediocrity to achieve excellence.

We have launched satellites of advanced nations. PSLV itself has launched 67 satellites; of which 40 have been foreign satellites, coming from 19 countries. Even today's satellites are all from developed nations - France, Canada, Germany and Singapore. Truly, this is a global endorsement of India's space capabilities, he said.

He went on to say that inspired by the vision of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, we have sent a mission to the Moon.

Another is on its way to Mars as we speak...We have also developed our own satellite-based navigation system. I am told this will be fully deployed by 2015.

He said we can be proud that our space programme is indigenous. We have developed it despite international hurdles.

He recalled India's space journey and its humble beginnings.

It has been a journey of many constraints and resource limitations. I have seen photographs of rocket cones being transported on bicycles. Our first satellite, Aryabhatta, was made in industrial sheds in Bangalore.

Even today, our programme stands out as the most cost effective in the world. The story of our Mars Mission costing less than the Hollywood movie `Gravity' had gone viral on social media recently. Our scientists have shown the world a new paradigm of frugal engineering, and the power of imagination.

He went on to say that many misunderstand space technology to be for the elite.

I, however, believe, such technology is fundamentally connected with the common man. As a change agent, it can empower and connect to transform his life. Technology opens up new opportunities of development. And gives us new ways of addressing our challenges.

Space has a critical role in realizing the vision of a Digital India - the power of 125-crore connected Indians, he said.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology has transformed policy planning, and implementation, Modi said, adding: Space imaging enables modern management, and conservation of water resources - through GIS-driven watershed development. It has been deployed in our urban planning. It has also become an important tool in better managing and conserving our natural resources.

Whether it be the Himalayan glaciers, oceans and forests, coastal resources or our mineral wealth. Space imagery is improving our land management systems, bringing wasteland into productive use. Our next frontier should be to extend the same to land records, bringing in accuracy and transparency for the common man.

He called for developing this expertise in space technology in our developmental process. For social change, economic development, and resource conservation.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at v.jagannathan)


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