That great, can-do attitude

You want to know where the technical, can-do spirit that once was the hallmark of post-World War II America has gone?

Try India, for one.

If you still have some stereotype in your mind about India as a backward land of impoverished people, set your mind on the heavens, because India has launched a mission to Mars.

The Mars probe will reach the Red Planet next September, and it will begin its observation work.

Now, while America currently has amazing robotic explorers working on the surface of Mars, the U.S. space program remains mired in budget battles. The people who cry that space is not important while poverty runs through the land have lost the space program’s can-do 1960s spirit. Back then, there was a conviction that, for whatever political reason, the nation needed to beat the Soviet Union to the Moon, and Americans applauded as the world stood in awe on July 20, 1969, as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface.

But soon after that, the exploration stopped. We had beaten the Soviets and apparently the cost of continuing in space from what we had achieved as a nation became too unattainable for those who think it’s space or poverty with no middle ground.

Listening to the comments of the Indian scientists involved in the program – a program that went from scratch to mission in flight in 15 months – one gets a sense that it’s the Indian people who have the can-do spirit now.

“These missions are important. These are things that give Indians happiness and bragging rights,” said Raghu Kalra of the Amateur Astronomers Association Delhi. “Even a poor person, when he learns that my country is sending a mission to another planet, he will feel a sense of pride for his country, and he will want to make it a better place.”

The government also speaks about the importance of providing Indians with high-tech jobs and engineering excellence and the development through spacefaring of practical solutions for problems on Earth.

We have a couple of probes up and astronauts regularly on the International Space Station.

But we congratulate India for capturing the can-do spirit and wonder what they’ll be doing in space in a few more years.