Venerable US broadsheet The New York Times has issued an apology after a storm of criticism over a cartoon that mocked India’s recent mission to Mars.
The offending cartoon showed a farmer with a cow in tow knocking on the door of an establishment filled with distinguished-looking types reading newspapers carrying headlines about the mission.
The establishment is called ‘The Elite Space Club’.
The cartoon was part of an article which explored the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) ‘budget’ Mangalyaan probe which cost a fraction of what the likes of NASA have spent on similar projects.
The mission was hailed for costing just $74 million, even less than what it cost to make the recent Hollywood space blockbuster ‘Gravity’.
The New York Times, in a statement on Monday, said the intention of the cartoonist, Heng Kim Song, had been to celebrate the fact that space exploration was no longer the preserve of the world’s wealthiest nations.
Andrew Rosenthal, a senior editor at the newspaper, said: “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. Mr. Heng was in no way trying to impugn India, its government or its citizens.
“We appreciate that readers have shared their feedback, which we welcome.”
Following the Mangalyaan Mission, India joins a select group – others include US, Russia and the European Union – that have sent missions to Mars.
The Mangalyaan project was a particularly special moment for the country given that it was a success on the first attempt, an achievement that had eluded the US and Russia.