New York Times India Mars Mission Cartoon Comes Under Fire, Paper Issues Apology

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he New York Times has apologized for the India Mars mission cartoon it published in its Sept. 28 Opinion Pages. The cartoon depicts India as a farmer with a cow, knocking on the door of the “Elite Space Club” as two older men seen inside, presumably the United States and Russia, are reading a newspaper with the headline “India’s Mars Mission.”

“A large number of readers have complained about a recent editorial cartoon in The International New York Times about India’s foray into space exploration. The intent of the cartoonist, Heng Kim Song, was to highlight how space exploration is no longer the exclusive domain of rich, Western countries. Mr. Heng, who is based in Singapore, uses images and text — often in a provocative way — to make observations about international affairs. We apologize to readers who were offended by the choice of images in this cartoon,” Andrew Rosenthal, New York Times Editorial Page editor, wrote on the paper’s Facebook page.


The Times had received numerous complaints and comments on Facebook regarding Heng’s cartoon. Rosenthal’s Facebook page has continued to receive complaints about the Mars mission cartoon, with one individual saying a large portion of NASA’s workforce is of Indian descent.

India launched the Mangalyaan satellite on a shoestring budget of around $72 million on Nov. 5, 2013. The satellite’s budget even became an Internet meme as people noted that India reached Mars at a cost less than that of a Hollywood blockbuster. After an 11-month journey, the orbiter entered Mars’ atmosphere on Sept. 24. India was the first country to reach Mars on its first attempt, and the mission has led to a spike in popularity for India’s space program and has become a source of pride for the country.

The Mars mission was even mentioned during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appearance at Madison Square Garden Sept. 28.


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