Around 24% of Indians want to work in the space sector compared to 14% globally and more than double the levels in the US, UK, South Korea and Australia, a global space study by British satellite operator Inmarsat revealed.
Two-fifths (41% ) of India’s residents are concerned about space junk and collisions in space, whereas 38% fear space activity damaging the Earth’s atmosphere and 46% fear we may end up polluting space. 37% of Indian residents versus 32% globally are hopeful about the possibilities of space.
“Our research shows that 24% of Indians desire to work in the space industry, which is well above the levels in Germany (12%), China (12%), US (10%), UK (5%), South Korea (7%) and Brazil (14%),” the Inmarsat survey revealed.
The company, in its survey, said that younger people are more excited about the potential of space.
Inmarsat said that the space sector needs to hire the best talent to prevent growth from stalling.
The survey comes at a time when India’s space sector opens up to private companies now looking to offer satellite-based broadband services. Inmarsat is currently working with state-run telco BSNL to provide satcom services for businesses.
India is also awaiting commercial services by Bharti Group-backed OneWeb and Reliance Jio, which will compete with Elon Musk’s Starlink and Amazon.
These companies are currently awaiting regulatory approvals to launch much-awaited space internet services in India. The country’s 75% of rural parts don’t have access to broadband, which will offer opportunities to these satcom companies.
In its report “What on Earth is the value of space”, Inmarsat said that the world is largely unaware of key activities in space, with Gen-Z twice as likely to associate space with aliens, Star Wars and billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos than older generations.
The report found that those aged 65 and above, who were teenagers when humans first walked on the Moon, are more optimistic than Gen-Z. They are more likely to associate space with research and exploration, rockets, and satellites – with their understanding of space more rooted in science than science-fiction.
Only a quarter of the public (23%) said they feel space exploration is ‘important’. Almost half (46%) consider satellites when thinking of space, 37% think of expeditions to the Moon and Mars, 21% think of aliens and almost 1 in 10 think of Star Wars (9%). Fewer than 1 in 10 people globally think of communications and connectivity.
This focus on Hollywood rather than Halley’s Comet fuels respondents’ feelings about space. Only a third of people feel ‘excited’ about space (34%), while 18 % feel nervous – just 38% wish they knew more about ‘up there’.
A quarter (24%) of people feel ‘overwhelmed’ by space, which comes as no real surprise with films like Don’t Look Up recently capturing the public consciousness.
“This report should be a wake-up call for our industry. Space appears to be underappreciated and misunderstood in the real world. In many respects, the knowledge we possess as a society is inaccurate and incomplete…Space can enable a better way of living for all on Earth, but public support will make or break this vital contribution to a better future,” Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat, said in the report.
Suri added that space needs a new narrative. “…it is time for us to define its value to the world. Global communities are united by their fear of uncontrolled satellite debris, falling asteroids and environmental damage. Having come so far, we cannot afford to destroy the gift of space through poor stewardship, fear, ignorance or inaction. Sustainability on Earth cannot exist without sustainability in space. Responsible space exploration and stricter regulation is a must.”
The global report is the most extensive survey, involving 20,000 respondents in 11 countries (including India). It said China and India are more focused on space exploration in that 75% of respondents in China and 74% in India were more likely to rank space exploration as “essential” compared to 61% in the US, underlining that more recent entrants are more aware of the value of exploration.
“The myriad of LEO mega-constellations now being built present an opportunity, (but) without proper oversight, they will create a massive amount of space debris, not to mention the issue of orbital congestion or even the possibility of damaging the earth’s atmosphere,” Suri added.
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