Surely you are joking, Uncle Sam
Sir — Was Goldie Hawn serious when she said that she watched the World Trade Center attacks on television and knitted the American flag' From the report, “Stars look back in sadness at September 11” (Sept 10), it appears that she was dead serious. This is precisely the problem with Americans, irrespective of whether they are celebrities or commoners. They produce the best comedy in the world, but most of it when they are actually very serious. Knitting the national flag is the kind of ineffectual gesture that they should try to outgrow.
Sandhya Kumaraswamy, Chennai
Sir — In his article, “India asks for the moon” (Aug 18), G.S. Mudur talks of the Indian Space Research Organization’s proposal to launch an unmanned 450-kilogram spacecraft into the orbit of the moon. However, an European space consultancy firm had pointed out about a decade ago that 500-800 kg satellites had become obsolete by 1988. ISRO thus needs to examine whether its proposed satellite would meet the requirements of the lunar mission.
Using a modified polar satellite launch vehicle to launch such a small lunar orbiter may be a good idea initially, but ISRO should plan to launch bigger lunar orbiters by using indigenous cryogenic geostationary satellite launch vehicles. The prohibitive cost of expendable launch vehicles has led to the idea of developing reusable launch vehicles in American, Russian and European space agencies. By 2020, these agencies may be using RLVs which are expected to cut launch costs significantly.
ISRO cannot afford to ignore this if it wants to remain competitive in the international satellite launch market. As Mudur rightly points out, the brain drain is also an area of concern. All our aims may remain unfulfilled unless our scientists and engineers get salaries and perks commensurate with the importance of their work.
Sanjay Prasad, Calcutta
Sir — Even a layman knows that launching a satellite to survey the moon, as ISRO plans to do, costs the earth. Can India afford to spend so much on such a fruitless activity' What has the US achieved by landing a man on the moon' Half our population is illiterate and lives below the poverty line. In rural areas, people often have to walk miles to get drinking water. Many die of starvation. The most basic healthcare facilities are not available to many. Continuing with such programmes in this scenario is but folly.
C.V.K. Moorthy, Sandur
Wealth of the heart
Sir — It is heartening to know that there are still people like Prasad, the farmer from a village in Rafiganj, near the site of the Rajdhani Express accident (“Son of the soil to rescue with hut bamboos”, Sept 11). That he dismantled his own hut to collect bamboos to break the windows of the train, is proof of his selflessness, a quality rarely found these days. After reading about the Prasads of this world, one feels that things around us are not so bad after all.
Purnima Vasudeva, Calcutta
Sir — The efforts of the poor farmers from the nearby villages after the Rajdhani Express met with a tragic accident in the middle of almost nowhere were really praiseworthy. Perhaps our ministers could learn something about quick action from these villagers, whose help made it possible for several lives to be saved that day.
A. Dasgupta, Calcutta
Sir — Management can be introduced as a subject from the school level to postgraduate level. Today’s children need to learn to manage themselves and others.
P.V. Madhu, Secunderabad