As India marked a historic milestone with the successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the Moon’s South Pole, netizens couldn’t help but recall a controversial cartoon published by the New York Times back in 2014. The cartoon, which depicted a farmer and a cow knocking at the door of an “Elite Space Club” room, was criticized for its perceived mockery of India’s space achievements.
A Triumph in Lunar Exploration
On August 23, at precisely 6:04 pm, Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander gracefully touched down on the Moon’s surface near the unexplored South Pole. The achievement not only marked India as the fourth country to successfully land on the Moon but also the first to do so at the lunar South Pole, an endeavor that is significantly challenging due to its unique conditions.
The Controversial Cartoon
The memory of a particular New York Times cartoon resurfaced amidst the celebration. In 2014, a cartoon featuring a farmer and a cow knocking on the door of the “Elite Space Club,” where two men nonchalantly read a newspaper about India’s Mars Mission, was published. Created by Singapore-based artist Heng Kim Song, the cartoon accompanied an article titled ‘India’s Budget Mission to Mars.’
India’s Mars Mission: A Game Changer
The article highlighted India’s groundbreaking achievement of sending the ‘Mangalyaan’ mission to Mars. This mission not only marked India’s first interplanetary endeavor but also made ISRO the fourth space agency globally to accomplish such a feat, following Roscosmos, NASA, and the European Space Agency. What added to its significance was the mission’s remarkably low cost of $74 million, making it one of the most budget-efficient interplanetary missions ever.
Chandrayaan-3’s Ambitious Objectives
ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 mission boasts three significant objectives: demonstrating a safe and gentle landing on the lunar surface, showcasing a Rover’s mobility on the Moon, and conducting in-situ scientific experiments. This ambitious undertaking not only furthers India’s legacy in space exploration but also showcases its commitment to advancing scientific understanding and technological capabilities.
Controversy and Apology
However, the cartoon stirred widespread discontent among Indians who interpreted it as offensive and racist. The backlash prompted the New York Times to issue an apology. Even though the achievement of Chandrayaan-3 stands as a remarkable leap forward for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), it has inevitably brought back memories of that contentious cartoon.
“New York Times cartoon in 2014. Who’s laughing now,” a user wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
“Time to look back at this racist cartoon by the New York Times,” said another.
— Srishti (@TechellaTea) August 23, 2023
Thank you New York Times. Thank you for the racial jibe & the ridicule. Thank you for doubting our abilities. Thank you for laughing at us.
Today we did not knock on the door. Today, we kicked the door down.
— Major Gaurav Arya (Retd) (@majorgauravarya) August 23, 2023
“Thank you New York Times. Thank you for the racial jibe & the ridicule. Thank you for doubting our abilities. Thank you for laughing at us. Today we did not knock on the door. Today, we kicked the door down. Now, go and draw a new cartoon. Go…” another person wrote.