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Mangalyaan, India’s First Mars Mission (nextbigwhat.com)
368 points by jayadevan on Nov 5, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 146 comments

Those people claiming ISRO does it at a shoe string budget, because they reuse yes they do. But we are talking of a factor of more 10 here.

Let me put facts on ground. Go and visit any ISRO campus in India. See the kind of offices they work in, they kind of food canteens they eat lunch at, they kind of buses they travel in and take a look at how much they are paid. I assure you will be shocked. In fact shocked will be a mild statement to make. These people work on ordinary steel tables, with fans over their heads. Eat the 15 rupee rice-curry meal and travel in 20 year old buses. Well forget all that. Take a look at pictures of ISRO available over the internet, they look like to be taken in some one's garage than a space research organization.

Your average MacOS/iOS app development start up has better working conditions and infrastructure than any ISRO office in India. I'm not talking just about the work place infrastructure. Even the working gear, stuff like computers etc.

For the salaries and the net compensation ISRO offers no ambitious well qualified youth in India would be willing to work there- I'm even surprised they have even gotten this far. Note, you are comparing a salary for something like 20K per month with a salary of something like 100K a month Google offers. You get peanuts for building the most important pieces of technology in the history of mankind, compared to building websites for sharing cat pictures.

This is working on shoe string budgets to its very extreme. I hope these people get better funding in the future.

And yeah for those people too worked up about spending some 100th decimal rounding error of India's budget on a mars project. That is doing far more benefit to India's reputation, than a yet-another-scam-infested scheme.

I used to stay in a paying guest accomodation during my first job. My roommate was a guy who had just joined ISRO - we graduated same year but from different colleges. And I also had a chance to interact closely with 2 other friends who were working with ISRO at that time (one was a senior in college).

His payscale started at Rs.8000 per month (in 2001 that was less than $200usd). He was a production engineer. He would be up for next revision of payscale & promotion pending a review in 4 years! He knew that.

I used to wonder what keeps them motivated and I used to constantly question them. One common thread you find based on these conversations is that they are extremely satisfied with work - each of them used to say that what they are working on is UNIQUE that nobody else in ISRO is responsible for. And buck stops with them. They knew that.

That sense of ownership and the way the employees connect to a much larger cause is something unbelievable at ISRO, in my perspective. I used to be in awe of every conversation about his superiors, the work and their perspective of the organization in general.

I think it is an interesting case study in organizational behavior and what keeps you motivated with factors other than just money.

Teaching is another profession I think requires similar mindset. ISRO somehow hires the right kind of people, the employees within the organization are not so flamboyant setting examples for new hires and helps them connect in a way it makes people see contribution to a bigger cause.

Just my observation from what I have seen from close quarters.

BTW, it is also given that he knew they get pension after retirement, medical benefits & all such taken care of for his entire life because he is part of the organization.

Would love to read if there are any case studies on this.

Its also parental and social pressure. All the best trying to explain the people around you, that you are joining ISRO and not some company like Wipro, TCS or Infosys. You will receive a nice lecture and may be have a angry fight session with your dad. In overall's you yourself will be tired after a few days when you watch some one doing far less meaningful, important or difficult work taking back big pay checks, driving a luxury car, and living in a >1cr flat. And then of course your marriage, wife, kids and expectations from them and all that.

Its truly sad that these people are paid so badly. Infrastructure and entire thing is so dismal, my heart aches that things of this importance are treated this way in our country.

I'm sure every Indian teenager wanting to do some meaningful job has faced this situation. I had a tough time convincing my parents I was about to leave a call center job in a big MNC to write embedded software at a small unknown firm. The situation deteriorated so badly my parents threatened they would fall very seriously ill if I didn't do as they say. Finally I had to relent to working at a big software giant.

People say fight the society. But you can only fight a few battles in life. Career is already a tough battle, fighting society to achieve to work something meaningful is waste of time and energy.

We still haven't changed. There are people who even have doubt's if projects like these are necessary. A safe job, a good pension to take care of, male children, jewellery, good deal of real estate and social pride is all we value in our society.

Mars project? Well who cares about that?

For a ridiculous comparison of how cheap/expensive Mangalyaan was


Not that it matters, but I pay more for my city commute per-km.

As an organization, ISRO is political and bureaucratic. I have a good "set of friends and family" worked there or working there. There are good people and bad people (projects) there. You must be lucky to get into the right one. The pay scale is not competitive - But its not worse. The perks are really good. i.e Ultimately they get paid a little less than a private cos. The perks from the governments should not be discounted EVER. I work in a private co. which is much better than the Infosys/Wipro/etc s.w co's (also with a relatively much better pay). But I can tell you, ISRO job is better than mine. If I could opt today, I would go to ISRO.

With a little lesser pay, you also get peace of mind. This might not be important at 22s or 25s. But at 30, as a husband and a father, I can surely tell you ISRO gives much better lifestyle. i.e you can work for 2 hours or 16 hours if you enjoy that. Average employee productivity there sucks - literally. But at that non-competitive pay, government should not expect more.

You also have a "safe-job" and lesser work pressure. There are certain projects that are high-pressure jobs - but those are rare.

An important factor to keep you motivate might also be "working for your country". I have worked for large govt. projects for western countries and it give you ZERO sense of pride. It is "just another project". And I worked for a very small system for the transportation in my city. And just that feeling of watching that system being used in my country gives me a hell lot of sense of pride/achievement. I don't know if everybody feels the same way - but that is one of the biggest motivation factors for me (I don't work for ISRO / govt)

I agree with all you points.

Coming to ...

>>As an organization, ISRO is political and bureaucratic.

All set ups in India, regardless of private or government owned are extremely political. I've seen dirtiest form of politics in private companies, hailing to be champions of meritocracy which can put government firms to shame.

In fact politics in the number one reason which drives nearly every once-a-great-firm to ground.

Russian space program was in similar conditions for the past 20 years. I have a couple of former classmates who graduated from one of the best math high schools and math universities in Russia, got great grades, won programming competitions and now work as low-level embedded C hackers, writing firmware for space chips. (It seems like the two of them are making every career decision together — they even played wow with characters 'malloc' and 'calloc' side by side.) They earn about a third or a quarter of their "market value" and do php web development on the side to get some money, but have no desire to change their jobs, because they love what they do.

I literally LoL reading the 'malloc' and 'calloc'. Those guys are all-caps NERDS...kudos to them.

My dad worked at ISRO for 30+ years and is now retired - so what I'm saying has some merit.

I don't know where you are getting the impression that ISRO engineers aren't paid well. Sure, they are not paid Google salaries but they are no way paid peanuts. A fresh engineering graduate will stand to get around 40K INR per month. Please not that if you are not landing up a software job, in India, it's a pretty shitty market out there for other disciplines. ISRO offers are great when you consider for example, what a mechanical engineer makes in other private companies.

Working environment is also comparable to any software facility. Please visit the ISRO facility in Bangalore on old airport road. They have some of the most green and spacious campuses. I don't have pictures because security is super tight and they don't even let you carry your cellphones inside.

For a long time, ISRO offered some of the best retirement benefits. My dad and mom don't have to worry about their healthcare costs for the rest of their lives and my dad gets a handsome pension to take care of his day to day living expenses. This has changed with the sixth pay commission.

ISRO also offers housing in some prime areas, near the office facilities so that you don't have to commute much. Of course, not everyone gets this benefit and it's based more on a lottery basis.

The schooling for your kids is almost free in the Kendriya Vidyala schools - and some of those schools offer top notch education.

While you are employed, you pay next to nothing for healthcare (including surgeries). There is the CGHS card that you flash in almost all major hospitals and you are taken care of.

As if this was not all enough, you get to work on some really state of the art stuff that others can't even imagine. There is absolutely no room for error. You just can't say 'oh crap I'll just fix that bug'. One bug might destroy a satellite or screw up the rocket launch. So, there is a lot of merit in building such mission critical systems and a ton of satisfaction. This satisfaction cannot be compared with money.

During launch days, my dad would work 3-4 days at a stretch without even a phone call in between. Such was the pressure.

So, working at ISRO has a ton of merits and satisfaction. It's not for everyone though. There is no glamour as such in the job. You don't have crazy parties or drunken revelries or annual outings to Hawaii. There is an enormous amount of bureaucracy and bull shit that you have to deal with. But for an engineer who loves to build mission critical applications - the place is a heaven.

My father used to work for ISRO too, from '74 to '97. He started with Satish Dhawan, one of the founders of the Indian space program. They moved at the same time from IISc. I agree with everything deepGem has to say about ISRO. It is far from the 'third world space program' that many like to romanticize.

Few thoughts:

- There is a common myth, one about how Indians used bullock carts to test the antennas on a satellite. This, for example, wasn't because they couldn't anechoic chambers, but simply because bullock carts have few metallic parts to interfere with the actual measurements. Image here: https://lh3.ggpht.com/_1UepX3L4zzs/S6Fd5jUwoJI/AAAAAAAAAjU/i...

- Regarding the budget, the predominant political philosophy in India is what Americans would call 'tax-and-spend'. ISRO has essentially a limitless budget to spend on their projects. My father used to travel first class on international trips to meet suppliers in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The reason for low-brow tables and ceiling fans is more to do with cultural aspects. In fact, there are many top universities, and old corporations (based on anecdata) in the US where working conditions are 'ghetto' by Apple-Google-Facebook standards. The reason simply is that renovating workplace infrastructure is a pretty significant expense.

I can also tell you that there are absolutely no problems with technology infrastructure (including internet speeds) in ISRO. Some of their offices were wired for internet as early as early as 1992.

The one downside of working at ISRO, as with any government establishment is the bureaucracy that one has to deal with, and the general reverence for seniority (vs. reverence for pure merit, etc.)

I wanted to comment on the other comment, but those people were getting abusive and had to stop there.

>>My father used to work for ISRO too, from '74 to '97.

This is comparing Apples to Oranges. 1974 India had such a dismal technology scene, ISRO would have looked like India's technology paradise back then. What were the opportunities for technology folks then? Trying settling down in Europe or US, if you can't the next best case scenario is work at BHEL, ITI, BEL and ISRO sort of companies. The next alternative was to work at a assembly line, and next is open a small time grocery shop.

I see this tone repeatedly mentioned how some one's dad had so much from ISRO at a time when India was in deep clutches of socialism. Technology imports are tightly regulated by license raj system. Any comparison between Government firms and private firms from those times is totally meaningless. Because the very concept of a good career in a non-government firm was non-existent. So its not at all strange that people working in ISRO had a good career, because frankly what exactly was there apart from the government firms.

We are talking of times when the Ambassador was the only car in India, a telephone connection used to take years to get, and getting a current account in a bank required police verification. And the term private firm was synonymous with a TATA owned company.

By these standards, ISRO is the best career option you could have in those days.

There is no way you can compare that with IT companies today. Not with the kind of technology infrastructure, or even working conditions, or the compensation and benefits.

The scenario today is the very exact opposite of 1970's.

You're the one who's comparing Apples to Oranges. Nobody here are worried about ISRO salary, perks etc. (they are actually good).

No one's comparing ISRO to Google or NASA or SpaceX or whatever. You simply started off with this unnecessary, unwanted posts that aren't even remotely true; hopping from one topic to another without any relevance.

Since you don't have any firsthand experience, please stop it since your posts are just a noise around here in this thread. You've difficulty in accepting it and you simply keep hopping from one thing to another.

Why are you not trying to get a job at Google and relocate to USA, or buy one of those 80 lakh flats at Bangalore.

Don't worry about ISRO. They'll be fine.

>>Nobody here are worried about ISRO salary, perks etc. (they are actually good).

Here? You created your account 19 hours back, just for this thread. What do you know about things 'here'?

I didn't even reply to you. I am not sure why a Karma 15 account like yours created 19 hours back(Which is a classic troll account sign, which trolls create to work on a specific thread on a particular day) should be even taken seriously.

>Here? You created your account 19 hours back, just for this thread. What do you know about things 'here'?

http://xkcd.com/386/ :)

> A fresh engineering graduate will stand to get around 40K INR per month.

According to the Googlez, this is 650 USD/mo. This does not seem like much to me, but I live in Seattle.

According to the Internet $650 in Bangalore is $4700 in Seattle. Thats about what you'd start out at as a programmer in the midwest U.S. but kind of low for west coast. Still, a kid straight out of college with no health problems or baby mamas should be fine. Edit: wolframalpha seems to have something to say but its kind of confusing: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=%24650+in+bangalore+in+...

Compensation is sufficient, but in no way competitive. Given the real estate market in Bangalore, some of my friends who've had foreign travel opportunities in MegaCorps are buying 80 Lac+ flats. Some more than one of them. And these are guys are mostly under 35 or some even under 30.

Any one who is on VP/Director/Senior engineering managers levels is buying 2.5 Crore+ villas. Expensive cars, having vacations in foreign countries and crazy lifestyle spending's.

The definition of well paid just became a whole lot different. And there is no way anyone can live that kind of a lifestyle working for a government firm.

Again, you can be happy with what you get. But that thought doesn't work always. Peer pressure does amazing things to you. Even if you don't get into it yourself, you will get into it eventually once you start a family.

Also note, that the public retirement investment vehicles today are strong enough and sometimes even better than the government ones. We are no longer in 1980's India. If you are well paid, you can buy your own food, pay your own bills, have your own home, car etc.

Why are you challenging deepGem when he is confronting based on first hand experience and facts while all you have are just mostly assumptions? I understand you intend to win the argument here, but this is the wrong way to do it.

>Again, you can be happy with what you get. But that thought doesn't work always. Peer pressure does amazing things to you. Even if you don't get into it yourself, you will get into it eventually once you start a family.

Can you please stop swaying away from the topic at hand just to support yourself?

I take no sides, just that your ignorant arguments are making these places a little messier (and possibly irritating). I just called one of my friends from ISRO to confirm what deepGem said and they seem to be right.

I understand you need to earn Karma here, but this is really the wrong way to earn it - By spreading mis-information about something you don't have first hand experience with. If I had the tone of the others, I would have probably finished it off with just a single line by saying GTFO, but for the sake of HN etiquette, can I kindly ask you to stop this nonsensical Karma-whorish misinformation spreading?

Well I apologize If my arguments have offended any one here.

And since you have already 'understood' I'm here for karma and you are for the larger good of the humanity. What can I say further? Especially when you have taken so much pain of calling your friends and verifying the information to debate a stranger over the internet.

>>I would have probably finished it off with just a single line by saying GTFO

You already have, haven't you?

>>can I kindly ask you to stop this nonsensical Karma-whorish misinformation spreading?

You definitely have a unique knack of 'kindly' offending and abusing people.

>Especially when you have taken so much pain of calling your friends and verifying the information to debate a stranger over the internet.

Since you're taking so much pain to spread false info, others are taking some pain to correct a stranger over Internet.

>You definitely have a unique knack of 'kindly' offending and abusing people.

Well, it's much better than spreading false rumours about you just because I don't like you. (Which is what you've been doing about subjects you don't know about)

@kamaal, please don't measure everything in terms of money, and in terms of those million dollar flats. You are simply swaying off of topic. Why do you think you can dispute GP's first hand experience?

Also, you don't seem to have any idea about ISRO. So, please control your assumptions about their salary, working conditions, transport etc. I'd rather trust GP's post about ISRO as he has first hand experience.

Generally, I would have simply agreed with what you said. (and what you said is true)

But! Stop complaining at this one moment. And take a look at the achievements of this country's people. They don't have world's best food, world-class infrastructure and not enough money to hire world class talent either. Probably they have world-class corruption in the country.

How many countries achieve this after having these many "core" problems. Salute to the people who achieved this feat.

>They don't have the world's best food

Strongly disagree. We really do. But yeah I generally agree with your post.

We might have world class food (thanks to FCI's rathouses) but for sure that ain't reaching 600 million. The logic runs thus, they've got no place to shit, so why they need food.

Hat's off to those who stay back in this crazy country and strive hard to lift this sunken ship, and for sure the ISRO folks are among them.

Thank you! I'd think India has one of the most diverse range of cuisines in the world, much of which is lip-smacking good!

Maybe not the best, but pretty close ... in my visit to India, i totally loved the food. One of the vastes cuisines both in taste and quantity !

Most of it burns twice ;)

> How many countries achieve this after having these many "core" problems.

It is a great feat! It's confusing to me how India can plan something like this, but cannot fix the problem of buying train tickets. I've heard that the queues can be quite long.

But it is exciting to see India sending things into space.

If you meant buying online, the problem was solved long back.. https://www.irctc.co.in/

Believe me the website works and is used by millions..

Queues still remain long due to lack of computer literacy and reach of internet..

While they are doing a better job on this, it still crashes @ 10am daily - right around the emergency quota for the day starts. They also need daily maintenance for an hour or so.

And not to mention it is India's largest ecommerce site :)

Its not exactly that Western nations don't have problems they ignore or are not called out on. Its just easier for people to take cheap shots at India, stereotypes and such being what they are.

I don't think their political corruption is much worse than what the US has, we just have laws that permit too much of it. Fortunately the scientist of most countries want to succeed because of their interest in the unknown, in doing things, rather than worrying about politics.

From travelling across India for a few months (also among the "backwards" populations, as they are referred to even in Indian legal texts), I can tell you that yes, corruption is amazingly prevalent. As far as money exchanged, you might be right (I don't know), but the way it affects day to day life is nothing like in western countries. It's a credit to the resilience of people there that they can function on top of that structure and still be enthusiastic about "India" - over a dozen fairly geographically homogenous languages, with most people never travelling outside their cultural comfort zone.

To be frank, nobody is really complaining in the comments. Btw on twitter three trends are for this mission: MissionMars, SriHariKota and ISRO.

One more - #Mangalyaan

Agree with most of what you say. But before jumping into portraying a shoe string salary take into account the "corruption adjusted benefits" that Google and other companes could not offer [http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/behind-the-sband-s...]

How would an Isro engineer get access to bribes and stuff? All that is for people dealing with large public funds and services.

ISRO has commercial wing called Antrix corporation. Just search for the scientists and top officers involved in the scam exposed in 2011. The given link is from The Hindu, most reputed daily in India.

Antrix is ISRO's commercial arm. The engineers who work for ISRO have no connect with it.

Then what was the purpose of barring four scientists from holding any positions and what was this mess http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-ex-isro-chief-three-oth...? A political drama?

I don't know how different are the work environment of ISRO and DRDO but I guess it must be same. One of my colleague at Tata Consultancy Services, an ABAP developer, left his job with decent salary and an opportunity to go to UK for an offshore project of 2 years. Why? To join DRDO at salary 4 times less than what he was getting coz he hated his work and was passionate about working on something that is not just interesting but also makes a difference.

`Project chief Subbiah Arunan says he has not taken a vacation in the last 15 months, sleeping at Isro's satellite centre in Bangalore and going home for "about one or two hours every day". `[1]

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-24547892

Every time India space programs discussion comes out a group of people will bring up India's poverty and other problem that should be fixed instead of investing on space program.

I used to be one of those guys (I am from Bangladesh), then I looked at the actual cost of this space program and realized that its not a lot of money (~$70 Million) even by India's standard. For example, in india's domestic cricket tournament (IPL) one of their franchise was sold for $370 million.

I also don't buy the wholesale "you shouldn't do x, unless y is achieved/fixed" argument. It might apply to some instances, for example india defense budget is about $46 billion, a big portion of it could have been certainly spent to alleviate the living condition of poor Indians in general. But most of the problem in India and other south-east asian countries are corruption and inefficiencies, not (always) lack of funds.

The irony of those complaints is that programs such as this one have a tremendous positive impact on industry and the economy. Think about what happens when you have a group of engineers and technicians who successfully build, launch, and operate a Mars orbiter. What sort of skills and experience do they acquire, what sort of impact do they have on the industrial base? What do they go on to do later in life?

And think about the proof of Indian engineering and manufacturing that this sort of mission provides. How much more likely are people to buy satellites or launch services from India? Or Indian made aircraft? Or even just consumer goods?

R&D spending often has a multi-fold positive impact on the economy, and I think that is likely to apply for this mission.

Still, it would make a difference in those people lives, even fighting corruption.

Corruption often comes hand-in-hand with poverty.

Speaking from experience as someone that has already traveled quite a bit around the world.

One of the bigger questions is international aid.

"Since 2007 India has been the world's largest recipient of recorded remittances from abroad. In 2010 these inflows were worth $54bn (£35bn). UK foreign direct investment in India is considerable, reaching £1.8bn in the same year."

You can't really on the one hand claim your country is terribly poor, and needs handouts from other nations, and on the other play at being spacemen.

Thankfully the UK will stop sending foreign aid to India in 2015.

> You can't really on the one hand claim your country is terribly poor, and needs handouts from other nations, and on the other play at being spacemen.

... and you can't really post on HN without showing some basic common sense.

FYI: "International remittances" is NOT foreign aid. It is money sent to India by Indians working abroad.

Foreign direct investment is NOT foreign aid. It is non-Indians buying Indian stocks.

Please read up on these before you criticize. Your bigotry is too obvious.

BTW: India has asked UK to stop the aid. Plus, any aid that UK does send should be considered a payment for all the stuff they looted from India (and the Indian lives lost fighting for UK in WW2).

"Thankfully the UK will stop sending foreign aid to India in 2015". You seem to have a problem with this simple wish but perhaps you can explain what it is? Do you think aid should continue (in spite of India's request) or that the UK should stop. BTW we can read negatives without capitalization.

Many countries including Britain seem to me to get their priorities wrong. India certainly does when one sees the wretched and disgusting (not strong enough!) way in which so many people are forced to live by being deprived of services which have perforce to be supplied by the state.

> You seem to have a problem with this simple wish but perhaps you can explain what it is?

My problem is with the assumption that this miniscule amount of "aid" is somehow significant.

Do realize that when countries give "aid", it is often more for domestic reasons. This "aid" comes with all sorts of strings attached, and benefits the donor country more than the recipient.

Case in point: US military aid to Israel comes right back to the US in the form of weapons purchases from Lockheed, Grumman, Boeing, etc. In other countries, donor countries stipulate that the aid be used to purchase things from the donor country only; or expensive "consultants" are hired to manage the aid, depriving any benefit to the recipient.

As stated elsewhere, foreign aid from the UK to india is £280m. But I'm glad that's such a miniscule amount to you.

India's budget for this year is ~ $270B. So this "aid" from Britain (most of which would be absorbed by British charities buying British goods and hiring British consultants anyways) amounts to about 0.1% of the budget. Sounds pretty miniscule to me; and in terms of impact, would have roughly the same effect as a flea jumping on an elephant.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Union_budget_of_India

Remittances are money that Indians working abroad sent back to India. Is that aid??? And the quote again talks about "foreign direct investments". FDI. Does that read aid?

Where are you quoting that from? It is not good form to give a quote without a link. And you make a quote and come to a conclusion about aid. Btw, the UK aid to India is £280m.

Edit - Probably this one - http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/feb/18/uk-aid-india

Read the article again properly.

Thanks, I copy and pasted the wrong bit. But the point stands.

No sir, are you complaining about the #280 million aid to India? That's a pittance to the 1.8 trillion dollar and growing economy India is. Sure there are poor people. But we are a growing economy and have a greater need for technology than U.K has. That was always our ticket to prosperity. Who knows, this might open up an Indian empire in the future solar system economy :-)

Yes I am complaining about the £280m send to India. There are a lot of other causes closer to home that would benefit greatly from it.

It is exactly that a country like India, with a growing population, that needs to invest in space exploration. We are going to inhabit other planets if we are to continue our species.

I don't know anything about UK investment in India but remittances are not international aid, that is money earned by foreign workers.

Yes apologies. I copy and pasted the wrong bit from a badly written gruaniad article.

The point stands though. Whether it's billions or millions, it's still a ton of money which we shouldn't be giving them in aid.

Can you guess which country is the 6th highest in remittances?


Do you want to guess what number 8 is? Germany. Are these poor countries? Are remittances "international aid"? No, not necessarily. They're just an example of extended families spread out across different countries sending different parts of the family money. Should we begrudge France or Germany their remittances? Or their space programs?

Worth noting that there is a lot of investment from India to here in the UK:

"More Indian investment comes to the UK than to the rest of the EU combined. There are over 900 Indian companies in the UK, with Tata being the largest manufacturing employer across the whole country."


Tata Motors also owns Jaguar and Land Rover...

> You can't really on the one hand claim your country is terribly poor, and needs handouts from other nations, and on the other play at being spacemen.

Even if India needed/wanted international aid (see other comments) we are talking about investing 1/1000 of that money into giving jobs to skilled engineers and scientists (and others). Helping poor countries doesn't mean just feeding poor people, it means to give the possibility for development.

I find very offensive treating international aids as if recipients are helpless beggars that deserve that should be grateful and stay put.

I believe this is the bigger question about international aid. It should enable development, not increase assistentialism.

There are similar parallels with internal welfare systems in many countries. Help shouldn't be cut off as soon as someone reaches the limit of poverty, because there is little incentive to cross that barrier.

It reminds me of the people on state benefits that think a good use of their money is a 52" plasma tv.

On the other hand, I think the stopping of state aid to a country should be celebrated as a positive thing - a "graduation", if you like.

According to this article http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/a-global-shift-in-... foreign aid to India from UK amounts only to 280 million GBP; and something the Indian government is not at all keen in receiving in the first place!

[transcript]:"how dare you, little people, to dream, and make the things we, the superior ones, were incompetent to do?"

I wish India the best in its effort to the future and a better life to all of their people. It by their own big dreams and achievements they will create a great and shining civilization (they already has)

Let your light shine through the world, and dont listen to the bullies; it's pure envy

Maybe, just maybe, the British should not have colonized and looted India and parts of Asia and Africa for 300 years?

without British rule India would be an even bigger shit hole.

^this gentlemen is how you openly admit your bigotry.

bigotry? i don't think you understand what that word means.

If you haven't seen it, I'd recommend watching "An idiot abroad". It's a great travel show with Karl Pilkington. He goes to foreign lands and tells it how it is.

So you believe that the current British, should be paying money for crimes committed by their ancestors?

Personally, I don't think people should pay for other peoples mistakes, even if they happen to be born in the same country.

What if those people are still benefiting from other people's sins? If the current British don't want to pay maybe they can dispose of the ill-gotten gains i.e the country estates paid for by black slaves, the textile fortunes paid for by exploited Indian cotton farmers, the Kohinoor diamond in the Crown jewels etc.

Well it was clear from WW2 records that British were not willing to pay India even for the support India gave to them during the war. They only relented in the face of American pressure. Records also show that much of the 'development' in India such as railways was made practicable by Indian capital and labor, while the rewards of it all went directly to finance the Industrial Revolution in the west. The 'why' of this mindset of take-take only became clear to me when I followed events after the British losses of American colonies.

When any side feels the dominant emotion of 'loss', it makes it do selfish things to avoid future losses. But that extracts more losses from the other side and so the cycle can continue.

In the light of all that history, which current Indians being on the receiving side remember more than the British, any help the British give to India is at least perceived by India in a positive way.

As to the extent of the monetary help - its effect is limited by the ability of the recipient to absorb it. For analogy, YC reduced the investment into each startup down from $150k as it made things worse, not better.

UK's aid is more to massage UK's ego and keep your british raj hangover going than to help India. A rocket launch in 60s and then a nuclear test in 74 should have taught you what importance India gives to this aid. Even our parliamentarians are on record that we don't need it. But well...

Besides, I suspect that except in cases of natural disasters, most aid in general is a not-so-subtle bribe to buy influence. We can see front-pages demonstration of these facts quite often, all you have to do is follow the itinerary of John Kerry.....

As for remittance, I think you have misunderstood the meaning of the word. So let's ignore that part of your outburst.

I need to start making a note of the assholes on HN so I can avoid them in future.


I don't think that's true at all. I think the majority of the UK see a space program as a fairly useless endeavour - big boys playing with their toys.

The UK does certainly see sending millions of pounds overseas in foreign aid, as a bad idea.

And sorry again for my original copy&paste gone wrong. I copied the wrong part of the article which mentioned remittances rather than foreign aid.

I agree and so does the finance minister and now president of India. He calls it "peanuts" compared to the Indian economy. I should say they should use the aid for Scotland or other god forsaken places in UK. http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/441263/India-sends-a-spa...


As everyone has already mentioned, remittance is not international aid. This is very weak. Last time I checked, India asked UK to stop giving them aid (I could be wrong).

Every single time India does something in Space, the bigots come out from the woodwork: but India is so poor! Let them solve poverty/hunger/education/water/toilets/ice-cream first, and then worry about space.

When JFK pledged to put a man on the moon in 1961, the US did not even have the Civil Rights Act[1]. Millions of blacks lived in poverty, and were denied basic rights. Schools were segregated. In large areas of the South, blacks were denied the right to vote. There were lynchings. People were being killed just for demanding the right to vote. And Vietnam War was picking up steam.

And you know what? The US still said that getting a man on the moon amidst all this was a worthwhile goal.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Rights_Act_of_1964

Could you state your argument more precisely, please?

The original argument would be "don't do Space, solve povery/hunger/education...".

You point out that "poverty/hunger/education..." have improved despite Space.

This does only partly contradict the original argument, since there are plenty of severe and urgent problems today, including some of those from the 1961.

Additionally, can you explain the usage of the word "bigot"? Seems harsh.

> You point out that "poverty/hunger/education..." have improved despite Space.

I did no such thing.

I'm saying that you can't wait to solve all problems before you take on space exploration. They are not mutually exclusive. One can do space exploration while simultaneously working to alleviate poverty/hunger/illiteracy/etc. The example of the US in 1961 was meant to illustrate that: the US was fighting a war in Vietnam, a massive Civil Rights movement at home, and still managed to put a man on the moon.

Fair enough.

All nations have budgets for a multitude of programs and can work simultaneously on different goals.

Obviously, they all draw from a single ressource, money, and therefore priorties have to be weighted carefully.

Overall I'm not getting many good arguments on how to handle this except "Why, things have improved, haven't they? Give me Star Trek" and "Bigots!".

I suspect that this is because Space fans are on average less affected by the above mentioned acute problems, more likely to benefit professionally from investment in space programs, and generally appreciate the nature of space missions: A difficult task, but with a clear solution through engineering.

You're making strawman arguments. I'm no space fan; I'm just a fan of science and tech. I believe that a country the size of India can multitask: it can work on alleviating poverty/hunger/etc. while at the same time spending a little bit on space exploration. In fact, name any space-exploring country, and I can point out some social ill that money could be solving.

I don't think most of them are intentionally bigoted they are most likely poorly informed.

Here's a nice FAQ by Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society:


T+150 secs. PSLV Stage-1 separated. PS-2 lit.

T+260 secs. PS-2 separated. PS-3 lit.

PS-3 burn out. PSLV enters a long coasting of 28 minutes, after which 4th stage will be triggered.

T + 32 minutes. Coasting almost done. Stage 4 ignition in few moments. Altitude is a bit higher due to over-performance.

PS-4 started. 4th stage performance normal. Yay!!

T+44 minutes. PS-4 cutoff. Spacecraft separation success :) Spacecraft successfully placed in elliptical orbit around Earth. 300 day long journey begins now.


tambrahmrage (well, India's oatmeal) covers mangalyaan


made my day

Here's live webcast from Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DcSDOkDvyQ

Thanks JD. Good coverage on Mangalyan. For many Indians who are criticizing this Mission saying that the money would be better spent on toilets or teachers, this is an eye opener: Why Explore space http://launiusr.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/why-explore-space-a...

I have met a lot of Brilliant people from India that have blow me away on their technical knowledge. What is stopping them from helping to fix the infrastructure problem that India has? A lot of educated people seem to be seeking a way out to another country. While most of the people in India are living in poverty and have no chance of a decent education.

Forget Mars, for India the problems are too great at home.

Unfortunately the massive social problems of India (or any society for that matter) are not fixable by technology for the most part. For the part that are susceptible to a technological (and managerial) solution, there's plenty of interesting work going on.. e.g. http://www.infowars.com/cashless-society-india-implements-fi...

Well by technical I mean the engineering fields also. I assume there are people in the less technology focuses engineering fields such as civil and mechanical engineering.

But social problems are a different breed. It would be remarkable if India could do what China is doing infrastructure wise at least. My knowledge is limited and I am still an outsider looking in at both countries.

Edit: The link you provided mentioned corruption as a big problem in India. Engineers cant solve that problem.

Technological advancement is necessary for protecting India from international thugs (Please check the world history).

Yes but if they are all leaving India to make technological advancements elsewhere, then how is that protecting India from thugs?

From the Indian perspective, one has to flip the question. The question is how did the rest of the world get so advanced ? Unless Indians travel elsewhere they will not find out.

Live youtube broadcast here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DcSDOkDvyQ

ISRO stream is up: (needs Windows Media Player).

The website seems to be a bit slow, probably because of some traffic spike?

JD, I see that you are using wordpress. If you haven't already installed any caching plugin, please do: http://codex.wordpress.org/WordPress_Optimization/Caching

India is making baby but firm steps in space exploration. wishing that ISRO has a success with this mission.

Similar to SpaceX and most other space programs, they take from the research and technology developed previously to implement their own version.

For example, NASA developed different forms/methods of long distance communications which allow the spacecraft to communicate with the ground. That 63 million for development of the ISROs Mars Mission takes advantage of that. Saving cost.

Further, because some to many of the parts have been produced for decades and NASA retired their rockets, there are parts "on the cheap."

Much of the designs & research is "adapted". Hence, cheaper?

$679 million (by NASA) vs $69 million (ISRO) doesn't justify that. This has been proven over and over again by Spacex: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2011/09/28/...

US govt. throws money at it.

I think there have been a lot of lessons learned and tech transfer from earlier lunar and Mars missions. Chandrayaan-1 involved a lot of experts from NASA and ESA, for example, because both agencies had instruments on board. (I'm acquainted with one of these payload specialists.)

Some of the willingness to do that tech transfer is basically boosting India as a counterweight to China's space ambitions.

Also, remember that Chandrayaan-1 failed early. It's a steep learning curve.

no I think we should think of that good old "the NASA space pen" vs. "the russian pencil" analogy.

you did mean that sarcastically right? If not you might want to read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Pen#Uses_in_the_U.S._and_...

I watched the lift off

Good launch and good start. All 3 stages complete. It's in space in a matter of seconds. Need another 45 mins to declare launch success and 10 months to reach mars!

One would imagine that scientists believe less in rituals. ISRO scientists pray at the Thirupathi temple before every mission.

Yes, that's the tradition :)

Former Isro chairman G Madhavan Nair on Monday said, “This has been a tradition. I had also gone to Tirupati before the Chandrayaan mission.”

But more than religious beliefs, he said these temple visits helped des-stress the mind and offer clarity.

But beyond this, do superstitions and other beliefs have a hold on the scientists?

“Not really,” said Mylswamy Annadurai, the project director of moon missions Chandrayaan 1 and Chandrayaan 2. “I read a page of Bhagawad Gita daily and will do so on Tuesday.”

He added, “But yes I have just got a jar of peanuts and a good luck card from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Nasa. This is a very nice gesture. I will distribute these peanuts in my office on Tuesday morning.”

Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) consider circulation of peanuts auspicious.


Regarding the peanuts (in case this was lost on others): it's a JPL tradition that mission control open and share a jar of nuts right before the launch / orbital insertion / landing, for good luck. The point, obviously, is that space programs everywhere have good luck superstitions, many of them making less sense than a religious ritual.

>> is that space programs everywhere have good luck superstitions, many of them making less sense than a religious ritual.

Why so ? How does a religious ritual makes more sense than good luck superstitions ?

Religious rituals tend to have a more developed sense of internal consistency, and a framework or at least a rationale that makes several different rituals fit together. Simple good-luck superstitions tend to be more ad-hoc. (All IME)

As I see it rituals are set of elaborate steps involving a lot of ceremony, where as most of superstitions are usually in form of pithy aphorisms. A lot of ceremony doesn't necessarily mean consistency, though it might give a semblance of being so.

Forgive my naivete, but what is the point you are trying to make here? Or is this an attempt at creating some kind of fallacy?

My point is there is no rational bias to distinguish between ritual and superstition and to tell that one form makes better sense than the other. In my opinion both doesn't make any good sense.

Ritual is a description of a kind of routinized action; superstition is a description of belief. You might engage in ritual because of superstition, but they are very much not the same thing, and you can have ritual without superstition and superstition without ritual.

Agreed, ritual and superstition are not the same. But both are similar in nature that one cannot rationally question the set of steps that are followed (as in ritual) or the belief (superstition). Most of the times they are supposed to be accepted as given/prescribed. Any challenge to them and deviation from them is not well tolerated. Also the probable rationale attached to them might have been have been relevant during a distant past and might be no longer relevant in present day.

Have you ever tried to understand the rationale behind a religious ritual? Not from your viewpoint - but from the viewpoint of why such a ritual came into existence? Did you equip yourself with the tools to undertake such a study?

For e.g., I perform a religious ritual called Sandhyavandanam [1]. This ritual comprises of many components. I see merit in many components of this daily ritual. Some components, I have not been able to appreciate their rationale. But I trust the seers who would have formulated such rituals. I do not have the time to go into every detail of every ritual and understand the underlying motivation(s) and perform the ritual as is. Same with science. I do not question every theory/law/hypothesis. I just trust the scientists and researchers. If and when "I" perceive an inconsistency in a ritual or a scientific law/theory/hypothesis I question it or try to understand more about it.

[1] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandhyavandanam

Religious rituals are meant to connect with the divine. The idea being they are not inventions of ordinary people. Some created superstition just gives some order in someone's life and is just a shadow of a proper ritual.

You seems to be reasoning that rituals are _not_ inventions of ordinary people where as superstitions are, hence one should give more credence/weight to rituals. My point is rituals are creations of ordinary people, just that they are ceremonious doesn't make them any higher truth.

It does, to those practicing them.

Its not like NASA scientists don't have their rituals too. The Russians, as well, have a history of sticking to their superstitious habits also.

Science doesn't mean you have to be an emotion-less robot.

India's superstitions are far more deeper and affect common people in their daily life. Kudos to ISRO on this mission, as they might have faced lots of opposition to their operations from many sides. Even the Nobel laureate scientist C.V Raman opposed space explorations in his time, saying that they are meddling with Gods.

For example, Mars is considered as a malicious planet in their astrology and people fear its effects next to Saturn. It is hard for one to find a matching person to marry if he/she is are afflicted by Mars, because one of the belief is that such afflicted person's in-laws will face untimely death. This belief causes so much grief for the parents looking for alliance (ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangal_Dosha).

Hopefully scientific missions such as this will help the people to shed their unfounded fear and live better life.

>>> Even the Nobel laureate scientist C.V Raman opposed space explorations in his time, saying that they are meddling with Gods.

Could you provide some citation here? As far as CV Raman's religious inclinations were concerned, my understanding is that he was an agnostic [1].

Being a scientist himself, I don't think it would have been in his nature to stifle the spirit of scientific inquiry in the name of religion.

[1] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._V._Raman

I have read about C.V Raman's objections to space missions in Tamil language sites only.

I dug up the following for your reference:


not just isro scientists. even when our aircraft carrier INS Vikrant was launched, we had an elaborate pooja

As an atheist, it bothers me, when the "secular democratic republic" uses public money to hold ceremonies that cater to one community/religious traditions

I think the rise of the BJP has made it clear that the non-dominant communities are expected to know their place.

Well done by ISRO scientists. PSLV was proven vehicle in ISRO's arsenal. They yet to prove on GSLV.

Here's a nice step-by-step animation describing the launch, tracking, spacecraft separation, and solar panel and antenna deployment:


Indian government is already spending billions on poverty problem. Money spent on this mission is less than 1% of money spent on welfare. You can't stop everything else and just focus on poverty. Poor people are not the only ones living in India, there are educated people who need jobs too.

"The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them." --Einstein

elaborate this gem of a statement please, idiot.

Report: India PSLV successfully launches MOM en route to Mars


If you cannot get the DD and ISRO sites, you can catch the live stream at http://www.livestream.com/spaceflightnow

Just had a thought - Outsourcing Space Exploration - makes sense?

This is already being done at various levels. Rocket motors, parts, satellites etc are built by various private companies all over the world. Many space agencies provide launch and telemetry services. And, now we've exciting new space-companies like SpaceX, VirginGalactic, Icarus Interstellar etc.

More info:




By the way, ISRO has Antrix:


Thank you for sharing. :)

I suppose the mass of 1337 kg increases the PR effect of the tax payer funded show?

The rupee is in semi-free fall, the economy is tanking; yet there is a bunch of downvotes if I point out that Mars missions are paid by the tax payer and add nothing to the quality of life of an Indian.

Except maybe for the patriots that are unable to distinguish between government and people. Stupid money spending is nothing to be proud of.

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