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Aiming for the stars... but can't even make a chip!

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India is reaching for the moon. Its second moon mission lifts off next month and will land a remote-controlled explorer on the moon’s surface and put a satellite into lunar orbit. This will mark a spectacular milestone in India’s space journey and showcase its amazing competencies in space technology acquired through decades of pioneering work.

The next giant step will be the 2021 launch of the manned Gaganyaan orbital spacecraft capable of carrying three astronauts on a seven-day space mission.

The success of India’s space technologists while lighting up the Indian firmament does at the same time cast into shadow another aspect of our national condition — the sheer inability to make the slightest breakthrough in a slew of other critical technologies so crucial for our economic progress.

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s outstanding successes highlight the fact that while we can reach the moon, we cannot yet make computer chips, aircraft engines, rifles for our military or even key LED components for the millions of television sets sold in the country.

The question we must pose is why have we failed so abysmally in most technology areas when clearly we are capable of excellence, even greatness, as our space programme demonstrates?

This question is important because the long-term future of our nation depends on our capability to innovate, invent and establish competitive advantages in at least a few key sectors. Space alone cannot take us there.

Our shortcomings in most areas of high technology, apart from space and pharmaceuticals, are alarming for several reasons. For one, our space industry is miniscule compared to the size of our electronics sector and other technology-intensive sectors such as........

© The Asian Age