India has successfully launched a spacecraft to Mars - with the aim of becoming the fourth space agency to reach the Red Planet. The spacecraft is set to travel for 300 days, reaching Mars orbit in 2014. If the satellite orbits the Red Planet, India's space agency will become the fourth in the world after those of the US, Russia and Europe to undertake a successful Mars mission. Full story >>
The cartoon by Peter Brookes from The Times shows the Indian rocket shooting off into space while down below hundreds of Indians are clinging precariously to a train. One of them asks the rhetorical question, "Is there a life down here?" (i.e. a life worth living).
The cartoonist uses a line from a well-known David Bowie song to question the utility of a 'poor' country like India, which has serious infrastructure and public health problems (to name but two), spending $74m on a mission to Mars and roughly $1 billion a year on its overall space programme.
Note the way in which the word 'life' is used in both an uncountable and countable form. In the phrase, "Is there life on Mars?" the word 'life' is uncountable because we are talking about living things in general. • Is there intelligent life on other planets? However, in the phrase "Is there a life down here?", the man is referring to the activities that form a particular part of a person's life. • He has had a good life. See here for more on the usage and meanings of 'life'.
• How can poor countries afford space programmes? (The Economist)