Saturday, October 16, 2010

Journey To the Moon--------from Mysore

           Today is Vijaydashmi, a very auspicious day and I am dedicating this blog to something very close to my heart, Chandrayaan-1, and Isro with which I have enjoyed years of great friendship.

          As a kid when I was in school every summer I used to go with my dad and mom to Mysore and visit my relatives and return to my hometown, Mumbai, in the first week of June.While in Mysore I also had the opportunity to interact with my illustrious uncle, R.K.Narayan, who years later bestowed the title on me as the Sheriff of Sriharikota!!!

          Once I passed out of school and joined college, the annual summer sojourn in Mysore ended and so also over the years my links with the city and contacts with my relatives and Malgudi. In the last 30 years or so I must have gone to Mysore only twice and only for a few hours.

          But, my links revived this week for a change not through any relatives or Malgudi or something close to them, but through India's highly successful space programme especially Chandrayaan-1. I only wished I had been in Mysore this week and attended the annual Dussehra exhibition at the Palace Grounds because Isro had a major representation. The show concludes on October 20.

          Speaking to Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM), Isro chief spokesperson, S.Satish, said that the exhibition depicted the progress of Isro during the last four decades through several colourful panels in Kannada. When I asked why in Kannada, he said it helped in educating the local population particularly those coming from the rural areas.

         Though the exhibition is an annual event, this year there was a difference----there was a lot of emphasis this time on Chandrayaan-1 which triggered a considerable amount of interest among the visitors.``There was a heavy rush and each day, the figure hitting a lakh,'' he said.

         B.Guruprasad also of Isro explained that for many the Dussehra show proved to be a journey to the moon which started not at Sriharikota, but Mysore! ``We displayed a huge model of Chandrayaan-1 and panels which highlighted various achievements of this mission like for example the discovery of water,'' he said.

        Incidentally Friday October 22 marks the second anniv of the Chandrayaan launch. For my birthday also on Friday my daughter,Rimanika, said that she will try and get a T-shirt designed for me with the Moon Impact Probe---the most visible of the 11 Chandrayaan payloads. I hope she succeeds!!

         According to him, visitors literally turned moonstruck as they gazed at the model of the mooncraft which brought honour to India. I know for certain that the Chandrayaan mission has earned the title of being India's brand ambassador. Could anyone else have fitted into this prestigious role? No.

         Guru also said that there was a model of the Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-1). I recall asking him to click of pix of me with the actual SRE-1 during the International Astronautical Congress 2007 in Hyderabad. This is one my prize possessions.

         At the Dussehra show in Mysore there were also models of the three-stage Geo Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, (GSLV), the four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the GSLV Mark 3 apart from video capsules. ``The brochures and booklets were in great demand and we have to cart another big set on Sunday,'' he said.
        Good show Isro and on this Vijaydashmi day let me wish the space agency all the very best and heaps of success in all its missions.

        One thing---Isro should expand its orbit beyond Bangalore and Mysore and execute a landing in other parts of the country as well frequently as a part of its public outreach programme. After all Isro itself zoomed successfully from 36,000 kms to deep space during the Chandrayaan mission! 

        Here in Mumbai we would welcome Isro with a red carpet. Just give us the time and day, Last year Isro had a pavilion at IIT's annual tech fest in Powai. It proved a hit. But for most Mumbaikars honestly it is certainly easier to fly to moon or Mars than go all the way to Powai! It must be organised somewhere in the heart of the city perhaps in colloboration with the Nehru Planetarium or the Nehru Science Centre. Just explore the possibility.

        Once again all the very very best on Vijaydashmi day!                     


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