Space for "development": US-Indian space relations 1955 -1976
Maharaj, Doraisamy Ashok
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Through four case studies of technological systems - optical tracking of satellites, sounding rockets, instructional television through a geosynchronous satellite, and a launch vehicle--I explore the origins and development of the Indian space program from 1955 through 1976, a period critical in shaping the program's identity and its relationship to the state. Institutionalized, and constructed in different geographic regions of India, these systems were embedded in the broader political, economic, and social life of the country and served as nodes around which existing and new scientific and technological communities were formed. These organic, highly networked communities in turn negotiated and developed a space program to meet the social and strategic demands of a new modernizing nation state. That modernizing program was, in turn, embedded in a broader set of scientific, technological and political relationships with industrialized countries, above all the United States. The United States' cooperation with India began with the establishment of tracking stations for plotting the orbits of artificial satellites. Cognizant of the contributions made by Indian scientists in the field of astronomy and meteorology, a scientific tradition that stretched back several decades, the officials and the scientific community at NASA, along with their Indian counterparts outlined a cooperative program that focused on the mutual exploration of the tropical space for scientific data. This initial collaboration gradually expanded and more advanced space application projects brought the two democratic countries, in spite of some misgivings, closer together in the common cause of using space sciences and technologies for developing India. In the process India and the United States ended up coproducing a space program that responded to the ambitions of the postcolonial scientific and political elite of India. The global Cold War and the ambiguities, desires and tensions of a postcolonial nation-state vying for leadership among the newly decolonized states in the Afro-Asian region are critical for understanding the origins and the trajectory of India's space program. Without this political context and the construction of a transnational web of relationships, it is highly unlikely that the Indian scientific and technological elite, along with their industrial and political partners, would have succeeded in putting India on the space map of the world.