Mars (Image: Google Mars)
In Indian astrology, Mars is considered malignant and destructive.
The birth charts of prospective couples planning to get married are often carefully examined to ensure that the Red Planet does not loom large in their personal celestial configurations. Mangal, as Mars is called in many Indian languages, is not a celestial body to trifle with if it happens to dominate your chart.
The term Manglik, as in under the influence of Mars, is a dreaded one, particularly for a nubile girl. There are many ways to deflect that malignant Martian shadow. One of them is to marry a Manglik off a non-human sentient life form, a tree for example. The logic is that this temporary union misdirects all the bad influence of Mars toward that non-human sentient life and eventually effaces it because the non-human sentient life absorbs it. Mars, thus having been defeated, it is all systems go for marriage.
This tangential reference is prompted by the recent announcement by India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his annual August 15 independence day address that the country will embark on a mission to Mars next year. That’s a lofty goal for any country to have. My only recommendation would be to have a team of astrologers certify that Mars is not under the malignant and destructive influence of Mars. And if it is, one has to find a way to marry Mars off to a fellow planet. Earth being the nearest planet, that is India’s only viable option.
Dr. Singh’s announcement to send a probe to Mars has been met with some derision, particularly because it came close on the heels of a massive power failure that affected 600 million Indians. Jokes write themselves in a situation like this. For instance, have you heard the one about how India plans to launch the Mars mission without electricity? You have not because I am just making it up right here. Powering the rocket using methane emanating from India’s vast bovine population is one real option.(This joke will effectively end my career as a standup comic).
Part of the revulsion against the mission stems from the conviction among many that in a country where hundreds of millions live in raging poverty a mission to Mars is reckless and even cruel. There is great validity to this point of view and I am not entirely sure where I stand on the issue. One point to consider is that it is not as if the money saved by abandoning the mission will be automatically redirected to poverty alleviation. That is not how a country’s budgeting works. It should but it does not. Then there are those who say that India should and can do both.
The Singh cabinet has formally approved the mission, which if everything goes right, will take off in November next year. The country has had a fairly successful space program over the past five decades, particularly in terms of putting communications and meteorological satellites in the orbit. In 2009, it surprised the world by its first lunar mission, in collaboration with NASA, which detected water on the moon.
There is no particular reason why the Indian mission to Mars cannot work because the country has the critical technological skills and with a little help from its friends at NASA it can pull it off. I am not sure about the quality of science its probe can accomplish given the modest scale of the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) budget. The ISRO’s total budget is about $1.4 billion. Contrast that with the $2.6 billion that NASA has spent on its latest Mars mission alone by putting the rover Curiosity on the Martian surface.
The Mars Orbiter Mission is an important part of the allocation of national funds under India’s 12th Five Year Plan. There are three other missions planned, including Chandrayaan 2, the follow-up to the 2009 Chandrayaan 1 mission to the moon, development of a multi-wave length astronomy satellite
ASTROSAT and space-based Coronagraph ADITYA.