New York Times apologises for cartoon on India’s Mars Mission

The New York Times newspaper has apologised for a cartoon on India’s Mars Mission following readers’ complaints that it mocked India. The cartoon was carried with an article titled “India’s budget mission to Mars”.

The cartoon showed a farmer in a traditional dhoti and turban, leading a cow on a leash and knocking on the door of the “Elite Space Club” while inside two bespectacled men in bow ties look perplexed reading a newspaper on India’s feat.

The cartoon was published online on Sept. 28 after India’s Mangalyaan probe began orbiting Mars. The total cost of the Indian mission was put at 4.5bn rupees ($74m; £45m), which makes it one of the cheapest interplanetary space missions ever.

The space craft was launched on Nov. 5 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation, and began orbiting the red planet on Sept. 24 2014, joining four other U.S. and European missions circling Mars and giving India a success in its first-ever Mars mission, something that the U.S. and Russia could not accomplish.

The New York Times newspaper's cartoon on India's Mars Mission

The New York Times newspaper’s cartoon on India’s Mars Mission

Critics quickly complained The New York Times cartoon was racist and went too far.

Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor of the New York Times, wrote in a Facebook post that a “large number of readers” had complained about the cartoon.

“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 Rosenthal said.

“Mr Heng, who is based in Singapore, uses images and text – often in a provocative way – to make observations about international affairs. We apologise to readers who were offended by the choice of images in this cartoon.”

Mr Rosenthal said Mr Heng “was in no way trying to impugn India, its government or its citizens”.

The satellite joins four other missions that are circling the planet: Maven (US), Mars Odyssey (US), Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (US) and Mars Express (Europe).

Sharanya Bharathwaj