October is a starry month. Undoubtedly it is dedicated to space and stars. Can anyone forget October 4,1957? This was the day when the world witnessed the birth of the space age when the former Soviet Union launched Sputnik. And then a year later on October 1,1958, Nasa was born as a result of Sputnik mainly to counter the emerging Soviet space challenge.
Subsequently, it was sheer coincidence that several space-related events took place in October like for example the launch of the Saturn-bound Cassini (more about it below). and China's first mission to the moon Chang'e-1. There is speculation that Chang'e 2 will be launched anytime between October 1 and 3. But the most important flight took place during the early hours of October 22,2008, when India launched its first successful unmanned mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1. Its indigenous Terrain Mapping Camera was activated on October 29,2008. All October.
Therefore, I would say that it was a sheer coincidence that the newly-founded International Space Society (ISS) headquartered at Panchakula near Chandigarh has chosen the space month--October--to organise a national conference on space and an Isro exhibition from October 26 to 28 at Chandigarh.
The three-day space meet will be inaugurated by former Isro chairman, G.Madhavan Nair, and the conference will see a galaxy of Isro reps giving presentations about various aspects of India's space programme. Spacebuffs would definately not want to miss it.
Perhaps the much-awaited presentation will be on the Chandrayaan missions on October 26 by none other than its project director, Mylswamy Annadurai, who incidentally is my good friend. Now, with the second Indian moon mission, Chandrayaan-2 steadily taking shape, the participants will be curious to hear about this project. Though the details of the payloads have been announced, still the delegates may want to known more about them. So, Dr Annadurai be sure of a packed auditorium!!
Then there is a session on resusable launch vehicles by K.Sivan. Isro has been regularly talking about it for years, but no one really knows where this project stands today. So Dr Sivan can provide an update about this programme which can help to brush aside a lot of baseless speculation about this important mission.
There is also a session on satellite launch vehicles--the Indian scenario and advanced launch vehicles. This session assumes significance in the context of an advanced version of the three-stage Geo Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), designated as GSLV Mark 3, which will have the capability to carry payloads weighing four tonnes, tentatively slated to lift off next year from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.S. Satish, also a good friend of mine, will give a talk about the Indian space programme.
Equally interesting will be a talk about satellite re-entry experiment-2 (SRE-2) . This mission was to have taken off last year, but has got rescheduled. SRE-1 was a thumping success and both these missions have been described as precursors to India launching a manned space mission in 2015 initially to the low earth orbit.
Founder-chairman of ISS Suresh Naik, who will talk about the Global Space Scenario at the conference told ``Beyond Moon and Mars,'' that the meeting has a three-fold aim. These are:-
* Create an awareness about developments in the space sector especially among the younger generation.
* Create an awareness about the achievements of Isro particularly among the younger generation and students.
* Inspire students to take up a career with Isro.
It is a `go' for the conference. All status is green for the conference's launch and I wish it God Speed.
On October 15, 1997, an important mission lifted off from Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. It was a mission to Saturn and spacecraft was called ``Cassini.'' Originally, it was to have flown only a few years, but to the delight of space scientists and engineers it has operated for 13 years flawlessly beaming tons of important scientific data about Saturn and its moons.
After 13 years this spacecraft began its new mission extension on Monday (Sept 27) known as the Cassini Solstice Mission. According to Nasa, this extension will take Cassini a few months past Saturn's northern summer solstice ( or midsummer through 2017).
The significance of the extension lies in the fact that it will scientists to study seasonal changes and other long term weather changes on Saturn and its moons. A complete seasonal period of Saturn has never been studied at this level of detail, says Nasa,
Cassini has revealed a lot of scientific discoveries since its launch on October 15,1997. Near the end of the mission, the spacecraft will make repeated dives between Saturn and its rings to obtain a greater knowledge of the gas giant. During these dives, the spacecraft will study the internal structure of Saturn, its magnetic fluctuations and ring mass.