India's space breakthrough and emerging 'moonomics'

Astronaut. [Courtesy]

It’s a paradox that we rarely talk or write about India. We even forget it’s our neighbour across the Indian Ocean.

Two quick links to India are hospital visits and pharmaceuticals. Let’s be sincere; it’s not cool to visit India and if you schooled there, you do not put a sticker on your car like alumni of Western universities, mostly American.

Yet India is nearer than, say, China or USA or Europe. Familiarity could be responsible for our ‘neglect’ of India. We see Indians on our streets, some are our neighbours, some classmates or golf mates.

My high school maths, physics and chemistry teachers were Indians. I found them in campus too, teaching me physics or maths.

Indians have been here for more than a century, part of cultural and entrepreneurial mosaic. They built our rail and paradoxically, the next rail, SGR was built by easterners.

In graduate school in USA, they taught me business statistics. I owe them an intellectual debt. When I came across Raman effect and the Bose-Einstein equation in advanced physics, my respect for Indian scholars soared. I realised India and science have been buddies for long.

Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman won a Nobel Prize in physics in 1930. Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian had won the literature Nobel In 1913. Working with Albert Einstein is no mean feat!  

Let’s give credit, Ugandans were my teachers too. They taught me English, chemistry and physics. Mr Wambete nurtured me into a writer. Mrs Kihiu did her part too. Her beautiful daughters left my head spinning. Where is she and where are they? Want to know where I met them? Write me an email.

The other reason we rarely talk of Indians is they are rarely in the media. Who are the Indian musicians and actors? Never mind that Citizen TV has made a breakthrough with Bollywood. Indian movies have a voice-over in local languages - they have become an addiction in rural areas. 

Good cause

India is now in the news for a good cause: sending a spacecraft into the far end of the moon, rarely visited and confirmed to contain water. That is music to space enthusiasts and space entrepreneurs.  It’s possible the moon contains minerals - and plots. 

Water makes colonising the moon a possibility. Maybe owning a plot on the moon by 2050 will be the newest status symbol.

The bigger possibility is using the moon as a resting place on our trips to deep space, visiting other galaxies and exoplanets. Something like Delamere’s near Naivasha. This route got a new resting place, which I doubt charges for toilet use. 

You may not have followed the landing of the tiny Indian spaceship, Chandrayaan-3. But it matters beyond India joining the ‘moon community’ - countries that have presence on the moon, our nearest celestial neighbour.

It’s a source of national pride. What is our source of national pride? Humbling The Empire through Mau Mau could be one source of pride. We can create other sources behind M-Pesa and athletics. Add ending extreme poverty.

Such pride inspires the next generation, seeing new possibilities. Think America’s pride in landing man on the moon. And the setback for Russia, which tried to outdo India to the moon’s South Pole.

Positive spillover

Space exploration has positive spillovers such as new technologies and a motivated citizenry. Think of the number of Indian children who would now want to be scientists, not influencers.

Leadership in space, science and technology can spill over to other areas. Does it surprise you that Indians in Kenya are doing very well in heavy industries such as steel making? They lead strategic USA firms including Google. And that a Briton of Indian descent is the UK prime minister? 

Landing on the moon is part of Indian government strategy to extend the frontiers of possibility. How can we extend possibilities in our homes, other institutions, in counties and as a country? Should we extend possibilities for our institutions or try ‘owning’ them?

I would love to be a possibility extender by teaching Moonomics 101, the economics of the moon. Will you enroll? 

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