The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) may have sparked a debate on 'space race' between India and China, but former ISRO boss G Madhavan Nair says Beijing has already surged forward and is on course to have an upper hand in the field globally.
"I think if somebody says that we can race with China and catch up with them. At the moment. We have lost the game very badly," he said here.
According to him, India and China were "almost equal" five years ago and, except in the area of manned mission, "we had everything in place".
"In fact, in some of the technologies we were ahead of China, especially in space communications and remote sensing," he said.
"In the last five years, while India was sleeping, the Chinese steadily surged forward. They have 10 astronauts who have gone to space and come back. They have a space station. Half the job is over and I think in 2015, it will be operational," noted Nair, who had accomplished 25 successful missions during his six years tenure as ISRO Chairman and Secretary in the Department of Space.
"And they (China) are making a heavy-lift launcher which can take about 25 tonnes into lower orbit. With this they are going to have an upper hand in space not only in Asia Pacific region but globally as well," he said.
India is presently implementing programmes approved in 2007 and 2008 and they are progressing at "snail's pace", Nair, who was recently re-elected President of International Academy of Astronautics, said.
"We don't have a clear vision for the next 10 years; what we should be doing in this area," he said.
"And even in precious areas like tele-medicine, tele-education and village resource centres, where we had made an impact, they all have been wound up," he said.
"In communication transponders, there is a severe shortage and we are doing nothing about it. Navigation satellite. First one is launched. But subsequent ones are yet to go. So in that backdrop, sending a minuscule spacecraft to Mars at this time. It's totally, I would say, misplaced priority," Nair said.