The importance of states in space missions – India’s Moon Landing: Lessons for Resource-Constrained Economies | 28 August 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It is a case study that illustrates how resource-constrained economies like India are able to accomplish ambitious space programs with the help of the State.


  • GS3: Science and Technology – Awareness in the fields of SpaceAchievements of Indians in Science & Technology;
  • GS3: Science and TechnologyIndigenization of Technology and Developing New Technology.


  • On August 23, India's Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully landed on the South Pole of the moon, making India the fourth country to achieve this feat after the Soviet Union, the U.S., and China.
  • This accomplishment was achieved at a relatively low cost, which raises questions about what factors allow resource-constrained economies to pull off ambitious programs and what lessons they hold for our ability to combat challenges.


  • Factors for Success:
    • Human Resources:
      • China, India, and the U.S. are the world's most populous nations and have laid a lot of importance on science and technology in their post-war/post-colonial development trajectory. Their current successes are the results of those initial investments.
      • The large numbers of potential scientists and engineers in these countries provide a clue to the successes of these nations in space exploration, despite not being as rich as the developed world.
    • Role of the State:
      • An active and capable state can help establish frameworks and procedures that overcome financial constraints and enable the harnessing of important resources like skilled workers.
      • Though the private space industry is growing, it is still only governments that have enabled spacecraft to land on the moon.
      • The UAE's space program is an example of the importance of the “triple helix model,” where the government, the private sector, and academics work together to achieve objectives.
  • Diversion of Resources:
    • One question often raised is whether developing economies, with problems such as poverty, can afford the diversion of valuable resources to such ambitious programs.
    • However, the successes of the Apollo missions show that the knowledge gleaned from these missions will contribute to human progress, and ISRO's demonstration of its ability to launch satellites at relatively low costs can attract business and revenue from private players.
  • The Role of the State:
    • The multiple crises besetting the world indicate the inability of the private sector to tackle them unaided.
    • What is required is a true partnership between the state and markets, with active intervention of the state in order to provide the space for ingenuity to flourish.
    • The success of governments in landing spacecraft on the moon indicates that states can be powerful and competent actors.

Way Forward:

  • The successes of resource-constrained economies in space exploration show us the roadmap for navigating concerns on earth. It also indicates that states can be powerful and competent actors.
  • An inclusive and secular state, committed to building the capacity required to ensure genuine human development, is the need of the hour

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