The last 50 years of space have been fantastic while the next 50 years will be spectacular,” remarked Prof. U R Rao, former chairman ISRO, delivering his lecture on “Challenges in Space” in the 97th Indian Science Congress.
The space age began with the launch of Sputnik-I, 52 years ago from the former Soviet Union. Since then, plenty of satellites have been launched. The Cosmic Background Radiation Explorer (COBE) launched in 1989, confirmed the prediction made by the Big Bang theory. The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe and recently launched Herschel and Plank have contributed a lot to the study of the universe.
Dr. Rao said nine great challenges in space are food security, energy security, environmental security, resource security, space security, space transportation, search for life, exploration of the universe and colonisation of Mars.
The per capita food productivity of India which is currently about 1.7 ton/ ha should be increased to about 4 tons/ha by 2050 to meet the growing food requirements. This can be done by initiating a new green revolution that requires the application of space technology along with biological inputs, he observed.
Space technology can be used for better meteorological forecasting which would help mitigate the consequences of disasters, he added.
Dr. Rao stressed the importance of energy security for industrial expansion, agriculture and infrastructure growth. He explained with figures that per capita energy usage of India is far lower than other developed and developing nations like U.S (15 times more), EU (7.5 times more) and China (2.3 times more).
Space technology can play a significant role in coping with India’s energy deficit by the better utilisation of energy resources as well as by learning the effects of global warming, carbon dioxide emission and so on, he added.