Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Isro chief at IAC 2010 in Prague

      Ever since the International Astronautical Congress began at Prague on September 27, ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM), has been trying to access some of the presentations, without any success. The organisers for some reason have so far not put any of them on line which was not the case earlier. I recall when I attended the congress in Hyderabad in September 2007, the presentations were immediately available.

     However, on Monday luck came my way when a particular website--not that of the International Astronautical Congress of course--called spaceports.blogspot.com hosted quite a few of the presentations. Thank you very much.

     I opened the one relating to the five-minute presentations by heads of the space agencies and heard the talk by Isro chairman, K.Radhakrishnan. His speech I feel is bound to upset some of the Isro scientists who were connected with the design and development of the Chace (Chandra Altitudunal Composition Explorer)--one of the three payloads on board the indigenous Moon Impact Probe (MIP) of Chandrayaan-1 which crash landed near the Shakelton Crater of the moon on the night of November 14,2008.

     The reason: the Isro chief while making a special referance to Mini Sar, a Nasa payload of Chandrayaan-1, for the discovery of water on the moon failed to highlight the role played by Chace-1. It was after all Chace-1 which was the first to detect the presence of water vapour in the moon prior to Nasa's Moon Minerology Mapper and Mini-Sar. Why is our achievement being sidelined repeatedly?

     Apart from this,Radhakrishnan made a number of announcements about future missions. Some of these are:

     * In December 2010, a powerful remote sensing satellite, Resourcesat-2 along with two student satellites, YoutSat--a joint Indo-Russian venture, and X-Sat of Singapore will be launched. X-Sat is microsatellite demonstration mission of Crest which stands for Centre For Research in Satellite Technology. It is a joint venture of Nanyang Technological University and DSO National Laboratories of Singapore. When I was in Singapore in July 2005, I visited the Nanyang Technological University thanks to my good friend and brother-in-law Suresh and his enterprising wife,Viji, and spoke to the young team of scientists who were working on the X-Sat project. They explained to me in detail different aspects of the mission. I found them full of energy, excitement and enthusiasm--three 3 Es-- and never looked at their clocks. I only wish I was a part of their wonderful team too!!!  They had just one dream at that moment--seeing their baby head for space which will happen in December. All the very best.

        The objective of the X-Sat mission is to demonstrate technology in support of high resolution imaging capabilities.

         YouthSat will see the second space dream of Abdul Kalam becoming a reality. His first space dream was India embracing the moon through Chandrayaan-1. This was successfully accomplished with the crash landing of the 35-kg indigenous Moon Impact Probe on November 14,2008 which was Children's Day coinciding with Jawaharlal Nehru's birthday. The idea of a satellite exclusively dedicated to the youth of the world was first mooted by Kalam when he visited Moscow a few years ago.

         * The Isro chief also announced that an advanced version of the Geo Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle designated as GSLV-Mark 3 will be launched in two to three years. It will have the capability to place in the geo stationary transfer orbit four tonne satellites as against two tonnes at the moment with the current version of GSLVs.

         * Isro has so far launched 25 foreign satellites and 11 more will flown by the highly proven four stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

         * Isro has done a pre project study of the critical technologies aimed at putting two astronauts in the low earth orbit and keeping them there for seven days. He has been hoping that the government will give its green signal for this Rs 12,000 to Rs 14,300 crore project. but it has not happened so far.

         * Launching the GSLV Mark 2 with an indigenous cryogenic engine is one of Isro's main priorities at the moment. ``There was a problem ad corrective action is underway,'' he said.

          Though he spoke about the launch of Chandrayaan-2, India's second mission to the moon in 2013, he gave no indication whether there would be any folo-on flights. Also, he did not say anything about India's planned mission to Mars.

           In a span of just five minutes how much can Dr Radhakrishnan cover? Very little.




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