Distinguished Space scientist and former Director Space Application Centre Tapan Misra has taken stock of the global scenario during the period when every country was facing the COVID pandemic and has highlighted the fact that the performance of Indian Space Research organisation (ISRO) or India nose dived in 2020 and 2021 though India had comparatively enviable record when it came to managing the Covid situation.
In a post on facebook, Misra has asked: How did Covid-19 pandemic affect global Space Programme? He has responded to this question objectively and with a no-nonsense approach.
Commenting on the situation that has kept the entire world hostage for pretty long, Misra says, “the spectre of sudden emergence of Covid-19 in Wuhan province of China in December 2019 was being discussed as a possibility of rising as global pandemic, in hushed tones, in global health and political circles. But by March 2020, all over the world the emergence of the Pandemic of a century was felt, sending chilling reminders to humanity that we should not play God. From March 2020 to October 2021, global economics nose dived, killing millions, affecting billions, spreading shock waves of hunger and unemployment all across the globe states: “I thought it may be worthwhile to compare global launches in Covid cursed years of 2020 and 2021 with unaffected year of 2019.”
Misra focuses attention at countrywide trends in launches (Fig.2) to point out that China and USA are neck to neck, with China having slender advantage. Russia as usual is just a notch behind the two space super powers.
Fig.-1 shows month wise global launches in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The global space Industry not only appeared to be unaffected by the devastating pandemic, but in fact showed upward trend. No trend is visible over annual patterns over three years. In fact data from all three years show the typical upward trend as the year end is reached, showing the typical tendency of space agencies to shift to top gears to meet the annual target and this is in sharp contrast to what India has to flaunt in terms of India’s performance in the same sector.
Misra points out, Indian economy had started bouncing back from 3rd quarter of 2021 and the bounce has picked up consistency in second half of 2021.
Then what ails ISRO?
Based on his long experience in ISRO, the distinguished scientist has pointed out that the effect of management performance is observed in actual output of space Industry with approximately one and half years to two years of delay. There were gross unethical misconduct in ISRO in 2017 and 2018 time frame to settle and consolidate management transition in favour of a certain groupings, rather than merit and competence, he has stated adding the the resultant shenanigans have not only sent wrong vibes to the rank and file, but also ate away trust quotient between top management and general employees.
In Fig.-3, ISRO’s launch performance over last 4 decades can be observed.
According to Misra, ISRO started gaining momentum in the last decade. But off late, the momentum started nose diving. The momentum was taken for granted and somehow the arrogance has crept in that ISRO will perform regardless of the quality of leadership. Why not pitch for a leadership which can be milked by an influential section of retired scientists, who at the first place influence the selection process disproportionately in the first place? Then foreign players join the greedy bandwagon to hammer the last nail on the coffin. The result is a daydream turned into nightmare. The numbers speak of the harsh reality of what not to do with the organisation. A lesson learnt in devastation of a fine organisation, built by the efforts of thousands of employees, whose voice are seldom heard.
Performance in Space sector
China / China National Space Administration (CNSA)
ISRO Launch Missions 2020 and 2021
|Name||Launch Date||Launcher Type||Payload||Remarks|
|GSLV-F10 / EOS-03||Aug 12, 2021||GSLV||EOS-03||Mission unsuccessful|
|PSLV-C51/Amazonia-1||Feb 28, 2021||PSLV-DL|
|PSLV-C50/CMS-01||Dec 17, 2020||PSLV-XL||CMS-01|
|PSLV-C49/EOS-01||Nov 07, 2020||PSLV-DL||EOS-01|