Indian PM defends spending on space exploration
NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday defended spending millions of dollars on space exploration despite many people in the country living in grinding poverty.
India plans to launch a probe to orbit Mars next year at an estimated cost of four to five billion rupees (S$89 to S$111 million), and hopes to send its first manned mission to space in 2016.
"Questions are sometimes asked about whether a poor country like India can afford a space programme and whether the funds spent on space exploration, albeit modest, could be better utilised elsewhere," Dr Singh said in a speech."This misses the point that a nation's state of development is finally a product of its technological prowess."
India comes 134th among 187 countries in the United Nations' overall development rankings, while a survey earlier this year revealed that 42 per cent of Indian children aged under five are underweight due to malnutrition.