Indian Mars mission leader criticised over temple visit

Nov 07, 2013

The head of India's space agency, basking in plaudits after the launch of the country's first voyage to Mars, was brought down to earth Thursday by criticism of his decision to seek divine blessing for the mission.

K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), visited the famous Lord Venkateswara temple in southern India on Tuesday where he reportedly placed a replica of the Mars spacecraft at the feet of an idol.

Later in the day Radhakrishnan oversaw the successful launch of the Mars Orbiter Mission, known as "Mangalyaan" in India, which is on an 11-month journey to study the Martian atmosphere.

India's rationalist organisations, which campaign against religion and superstition in the diverse but officially secular country, slammed the widely publicised temple visit.

"There would have been nothing wrong had he gone there in his personal capacity. But to go there as chairman of ISRO and ask for heavenly favour is nonsense," Narendra Nayak, president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, told AFP.

"It sends a wrong message to the common man who will think God can sort out all his troubles," said Nayak.

Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association, also flayed the ISRO chief who was congratulated by the prime minister and president on Tuesday.

"What sort of message are we sending out to the world? It's a shame for our country that prides itself on its secular credentials," he told AFP.

India is attempting its first inter-planetary journey with a spacecraft built in just 15 months on a budget of $73 million, a fraction of previous attempts.

More than half of all missions to Mars have ended in failure, including China's in 2011 and Japan's in 2003. Only the United States, Russia and the European have succeeded.

A spokesman for ISRO could not immediately be reached for comment.

Explore further: Indian space head braced for tricky Mars challenge

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Indian space head braced for tricky Mars challenge

Oct 31, 2013

The head of India's space agency warned Thursday of the immense complexity of sending a mission to Mars as the country prepares to send its first interplanetary probe to explore the atmosphere there.

India sets November 5 for Mars mission launch

Oct 22, 2013

Scientists on Tuesday set November 5 for the delayed launch of India's first mission to Mars, which was postponed due to problems in positioning a seaborne tracking system.

India reaches for Mars on prestige space mission

Nov 03, 2013

India began a countdown Sunday to the launch of its most ambitious and risky space mission to date, sending a probe to Mars which was conceived in just 15 months on a tiny budget.

Recommended for you

NASA launches RapidScat wind watcher to Space Station

11 hours ago

A new NASA mission that will boost global monitoring of ocean winds for improved weather forecasting and climate studies is among about 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms) of NASA science investigations and cargo ...

User comments : 0