Pakistan’s space research program is stagnant
Pakistan’s space research program is stagnant, but it wasn’t always like that. In 1962, Pakistani scientists successfully tested the Rehbar One rocket in a short period of just nine months. Despite this glorious start, nearly sixty years later, Pakistan’s space program is limited to communication satellites.
World War ll
After the Second World War, the world scenario had changed. The world powers knew that the coming era was the era of technology, in which wars would be fought with technology instead of the battlefield, and the space race between Russia and the United States was at its peak. In such a situation, on September 12, 1962, former US President John F. Kennedy announced that the US would land its first astronaut safely on the moon by the end of the 60s.
NASA Engineers and Scientists
After Kennedy’s sudden announcement, NASA engineers and scientists were under intense pressure. Among other reasons, they did not have accurate data on the mission’s trajectory or the path that would have allowed for a safe landing on the Moon and return to Earth. During this period, the people who used to do these long and difficult calculations were called “human computers”. In this regard, Catherine Johnson of African descent played an important role and had previously provided very accurate data for astronaut John Glenn’s mission around the Earth’s orbit. How Pakistani scientists helped in the Apollo series missions.
Black Hole of Data
Another problem NASA scientists faced was that they needed to know the atmospheric conditions over the Indian Ocean. What he used to call the “black hole of data”. From this region, detailed information on the pressure, speed, temperature, and overall structure of the winds in the upper atmosphere could be obtained.
President of Pakistan
NASA experts had offered this experiment to all countries in the region, including India. Fortunately, on the same day, the President of Pakistan, General Ayub Khan, went on a visit to America, accompanied by his science advisor, Dr. Abdul Salam. Dr. Tariq Mustafa was a senior engineer at the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission during this period who later led the Rehbar One rocket launch project. Talking to Deutsche Welle in this regard, Dr. Tariq Mustafa said that in 1961, he was on a two-year fellowship at the American Atomic Energy Commission Laboratory, Oak Ridge. In July 1961, Dr. Abdul Salam called him and told him about NASA’s offer. So Pakistan’s space research program started.
Pakistan’s collaboration with NASA consisted of two parts. The first Pakistani scientists were to develop a rocket range to test the vapors to provide data needed by NASA, while the second part was to carry out more rocket experiments from 1961 to 1964. Dr. Tariq explains that at that time his team was part of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and SPARCO was not formally formed. But the Pakistan’s space research program had started.
Within a few months, a team of Pakistani scientists was given a visit to the Iceland rocket range, and training was provided along with the necessary equipment. This team included Dr. Salim Mahmood, Ahmed Zameer Farooq, Sikandar Zaman, and Rehmatullah from the Meteorological Department. By working day and night, these scientists not only established a rocket range in the coastal area of Balochistan, Sonmiani but also successfully tested Pakistan’s first rocket “Rahbar One” in a short period of nine months and provided relevant data to NASA experts.
Dr. Tariq Mustafa explains that for the Apollo series, NASA experts needed images of vapor at a few specific locations over the Indian Ocean/Arabian Sea. For this purpose, cameras were installed at five locations around Sonmiani, and the desired images were obtained on June 11, 1962 by Rehbar One rocket, releasing sodium vapor at an altitude of 50 to 100 miles. The data obtained from this experiment also gave his team important information about weather patterns, cloud formation, and cyclones over the Arabian Sea.
First Muslim and 10th Global country Launch its Own Rocket
With this successful experiment, Pakistan became the first country in the Muslim world and the tenth country globally to launch its own rocket. India crossed this milestone 15 months later in November 1963. The second rocket of the Rehbar series was launch a few days later on 11 June 1962. Dr. Tariq Mustafa explains that we continue our work diligently and in 1969 the “Rahbar” was launch at Sparco’s Mirpur rocket plant. And “Shehpar” series rockets were successfully develop.
Space Programme face financial issues
In the following years, Sparco faced problems in administrative matters besides lack of funds. Saleem Mehmood, a member of the Rehbar One rocket launch team who has also been the chairman of Sparco, says that Sparco is currently focusing on sounding rockets, communication, and remote sensing satellites. In 2011, Pakistan launched its first communication satellite, Pak-Sat One, in cooperation with China, with the aim of providing broadband internet, tele-education, etc. services. In 2018, Pakistan also launched a locally developed remote-sensing satellite in collaboration with China.
Federal Minister for Science and Technology
In a tweet in July 2019, the then Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry announce that Pakistan would start recruiting astronauts for space missions in 2020, and by 2022, Pakistan’s first mann mission would sent into space. The announcement came two days after the launch of Chandrayaan-2, India’s mission to the moon, but no progress has made so far.
Senior Space Scientist
Hailing from Balochistan, Dr. Yar Jan Abdul Samad Baloch is a senior space scientist at Cambridge University. His research focus is nano and space technology at the Cambridge Griffin Center and he has supported several European Space Agency space missions. Talking to Deutsche Welle in this regard, Dr. Yar Jan said that Pakistan’s space program started with NASA’s Apollo series. In the 1970s, most of the missions that NASA sent were relate to the moon. But since 1980, there has been a gradual decline in the space program and research. Not only in Pakistan but also globally.
After that, in the last two decades, the activities of space exploration have accelerate. In addition to the space missions of India, China, and the United Arab Emirates. Private companies such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are also very active. So, we can say that Pakistan is not contributing to it.
However, believe that research in any field is done to advance science. Achieving the status of just sending a mission. Or an astronaut into space shouldn’t be the goal. Just like Blue Virgin owner Jeff Bezos went into space on July 20. Rather, we should introduce a science or technology that is not yet available anywhere in the world. As confirm a few years ago by the Gravitational Waves experiment. Which took place under a particular target. It opens up further avenues of research.
Dimension is Emerging
Dr. Yarjan adds that a new dimension is emerging today called cross-cutting technology. It involves inventions relate to defense or space exploration. As well as improvements to human life on Earth.” If we talk about Pakistan’s space program, rockets or any other technology. May be relate to defense but we should advance them. In such a way that they can be use in normal life as well. It is necessary to strengthen the research institutes. And universities in Pakistan and promote the culture and “vision” of space research there.