Published: October 8, 2014
The HinduINNOVATIVE FIX: ISRO built the final model of the orbiter from the start instead of building a series of iterative models, as NASA does. Picture shows scientists and engineers working on the Mars Orbiter vehicle in 2013 at ISRO’s satellite centre in Bangalore. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
India’s Mars mission was made possible by less expensive engineering talent willing to work round the clock and the use of ingenious improvisation to cope with resource constraints
Ten months after its flawless launch on November 5, 2013, when India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) successfully entered orbit around Mars, most of the western world greeted the event with astonishment. A cartoon in the New York Times even went on to ridicule India’s effort to enter the global space elite — of the U.S., Europe and Russia — by symbolically referring to it with the image of a farmer, accompanied by a cow, knocking on the door of the elite space club. The newspaper has rightly apologised for its portrayal of India.
The country’s technological feat, accomplished two days after U.S.’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) project MAVEN orbiter reached the Red Planet, might well have some lessons to offer to other developed countries on the Indian style of innovative fix or ‘jugaad’ as they call it.Lessons from India
What made it possible for India to become the first Asian nation to accomplish its Mars mission on its maiden attempt? What fundamental strength of the Indian way of getting things done, and approach to innovation, accounts for this achievement on a shoestring budget: only $74 million compared to NASA’s $671 million for the MAVEN project? What can NASA learn from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)? What can the mature developed economies of the world learn from what has been accomplished in the resource-constrained environment of an emerging economy?