Page 26 - ScienceIndia Magazine March 2021
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        cies whose respective governments have tasked to align with Chinese/ American plans? Secondly, India’s offer to attract partners and get financial assistance to upkeep the India-led space station should be such that the potential partners cannot refuse. To that extent, it becomes impera- tive for India’s space station strategy to be based on exceptionalism.
India is a late entrant in human spaceflight, and the time it has lost, if compared with China, Japan, France, Russia, and the United States, cannot be compensated. India should not get bogged down by this fact but prepare to hit the ball outside the park. It should begin by partnering with countries that have stayed away from both the Chinese and American astropolitical blocs and providing the developing world nations — Africa, South America, Central Asia, South-East Asia, and Oceania — access to its space station.
The Indian government has capi- talised on the loopholes exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic to make tre- mendous reforms in the high-technology sectors. The Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes initiated by the Narendra Modi government have catapulted the indigenisation of a variety of products, which are crucial for the transport, con- struction, operations, and refurbishment of the Indian space station.
For example, there is no apparent role for the Ministry of AYUSH, Depart- ment of Biotechnology, or Indian Council for Medical Research in the Indian space station programme. However, India will have to utilise its immense know-how of agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and mod- ern and traditional medicine and yoga to put together extensive space biology, space pharmaceuticals, space medicine, and vyomanaut- training infrastructure. Moreover, India should attract experi- ments dealing with precision and high- throughput agriculture, space-based drug and medicine development, yoga, and pranayama from domestic institu- tions and international participants.
Where most of the space station- bearing countries and their partners have focused on flaunting their technologies, India should focus on human-in-the-loop
well-being. This person will be respon- sible for making humans interplanetary species. India’s space station programme should not remain a technology demon- strator and a tick on the to-do list. There is tremendous value to garner from this programme.
Agriculture, medicine, wearable technologies, holistic human health are bright spots of India’s innovation ecosys- tems. These, though not classically linked to India’s space programme, will become important as human spaceflight pursuits of India mature. These bright spots will offer India the necessary exceptionality and spawn novel intellectual property that it can commercialise. Furthermore, it is the PLI scheme and the larger drive for Aatmanirbhar Bharat that will catalyse the development of the Indian LEO Space Station (refer table). Greater emphasis on indigenisation will be vital for preventing
the space station from meeting the fate our aerospace and space launch domains suffered for decades. The Indian LEO Space Station is not the only one that we will build in the 21st century. We should aim to cultivate our private companies to occupy the LEO spot as the space agency graduates to build stations on the Earth- Moon Lagrange point, in the lunar orbit, and eventually on the Moon and Mars’s surface. For that, indigenisation forti- fied with strong partnerships with other countries is a must.
*The writer is a Technology Strategy Analyst and holds a PhD in Astrochemistry from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (Germany) and the University of Nice (France). He was a crew member of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission to comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
 Priority Sectors Implementing Ministry Space Station or Department Application
1. Advance Chemistry NITI Aayog and Department Power Storage Cell Battery of Heavy Industries
   2. Electronic/Technology Ministry of Electronics and Astronautical Flight Products Information Technology Control
   3. Automobiles & Department of Mechanical Auto Components Heavy Industries Control Systems
   4. Pharmaceuticals Department of Pharmaceuticals Space medicine drugs
   5. Telecom & Department of Telecom Up-link and Networking Products down-link
communications
   6. Textile Products: MMF segment
and technical textiles
Ministry of Textiles
Space-suits and related vyomanaut apparels; inflatable module textiles
   7. Food Products Ministry of Food Space food and Processing Industries aeroponics
   8. High Efficiency Solar Ministry of New Power generation PV Modules and Renewable Energy
   9. White Goods Department for Promotion Internal lighting, (ACs & LED) of Industry and Internal Trade climate control,
and gadgets
   10. Speciality Steel Ministry of Steel Space station module structural
frame
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