Writing is like T20 batting. If you block, you might as well retire to the pavilion! -- Pete Langman
Expat in Germany

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mangalyaan, a product of success!!?

"Remember remember, the fifth of November
 of India, ISRO and an ambition..
 We all know the outcome of that ambition...
    -- Anonymus 

I am a student at one of the largest universities in Asia in terms of area. The distance from my hostel to the classroom is three kilometers. My classes start at 9 AM so naturally I start from my hostel at 8:55 AM on my bicycle. I guess in order to reach class on time and to listen to the lecture from the first word, I should know precisely how long it takes me to land down the stairs of my hostel, unlock my bicycle, ride as fast as I can, park it, lock it, run towards the classroom, take out the handkerchief, swipe my sweat, go to the last bench and sit. I should be very calculative in order to achieve all this under five minutes. Quite an achievement.

Now, imagine, instead of three kilometers, a distance of about 200 million times that. And a vehicle some hundred times the weight of my bicycle and ten thousand times the complexity. All this in 300 days. Hell of an achievement! This is exactly what those scientists in Bangalore, Sriharikota, Thiruvananthapuram, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad etc have achieved! The fact that India is the first country to put its satellite in Mars orbit on first attempt proves it. The statement made about Mars Orbiter Mission(MOM) or Mangalyaan by China, 'It is the pride of India. The pride of Asia' proves it!!

Picture sent by the MCC on Mangalyaan
On November 5 2013, the Mangalyaan was put into a heliocentric orbit by the PSLV C25, ISRO's most successful launcher. The idea was to keep it in Earths orbit, keep increasing the distance from Earth (apogee) and then fling it towards Mars. Once flung, the engine was shut off for three hundred days. Of course, the moment the 440 Newton engine successfully fired without complaining a day before the D-Day confirmed the success of the mission. Keep your car in one corner of the garage without disturbing it for a year and notice the difference. You will agree about the degree of achievement(more about the placing in orbit, later). The orbit is a 421 km by 77000 km one for the next six months. The payload consists of a Mars Colour Camera which already sent beautiful photos of the 'red planet.' The methane sensor and the infrared spectrophotometer will I am sure give a good amount of information about the methane, hydrogen, deuterium and the mineralogy of Mars. Even though MOM is 200 kms away from its counterpart, MAVEN(sent by NASA), it will still send down some really important data about the Marsian atmosphere. This is a brilliant step by India and the world, a huge leap towards Mars-kind!

One thing saddens me though. When multiple GSLVs failed, ISRO was criticised. This was answered by them recently by successfully launching a geosynchronous satellite. Those who did not stay with ISRO during their failures are now rushing ahead to congratulate us! To shake hands with us! Is this the result of success?? Only as long as the mission is a success are there praises about the project being cheaper than a Hollywood movie or about the charge per kilometer!! Failed? Forget consoling, you would get criticised for misusing public funds on an over ambitious mission to Mars. Everyone is praising ISRO on the success of MOM. What about during ISRO's bad times?? Are we ready to support it? In its good and bad times?? Only time will tell.

Nevertheless, all thanks to every ISRO scientist who made the INDIAN proud!
From the prime minister's words, "We have gone beyond the boundaries of human enterprise and imagination INTO THE UNKNOWN"