Friday, November 26, 2010

An unknown story about Chandrayaan's success

     ``You paid Rs 2,200 for the dvd,'' was the instant response of my good friend, Pradeep Mohandas, when I told him that I had brought the dvd of the famous film, ``The Dish,''  which is a fictionalised account of the role of the Parkes Observatory in Australia in the Apollo 11 mission. The high quality pics of the Neil Armstrong getting off the ladder of the lunar module and stepping on the surface of the moon, were indeed from this observatory.

     My reply to him was that if it was concerned with space, I do not mind paying such a huge the amount! After all this dvd is not readily available in the market. My search for the dvd on Thursday evening was prompted by a news given to me by a close friend that that the deep space network in Canberra in Australia had supported the Chandrayaan flight. I visited a new swanky dvd showroom at Kemps Corner, not far from where I stay, and inquired about the disc. The store keeper first said; ``Sorry.We do not have it."' But, then he clarified: ``I think we have it. Let me check.'' He checked his computer, and yes he had it.After a 15-minute search of all the shelves, he managed to locate it and gave it to me, but not before playing the first part in his system.

     On Friday,  I watched the nearly two-hour film on my computer. To say it was great would indeed be an understatement. The reason: it was absolutely superb and in all probability I may be seeing it again on Saturday night. I told Pradeep that it was certainly worth more than Rs 2,200 and he laughed.

     One of the scenes in the film depicts an animated conversation among the Parkes team during dinner which focussed on how many in the world would watch on TV, the first man on the moon. Some one rattled off figures. When it came to India, one of them said a lot of people would see it, ``but there is just one telly.' On hearing this everyone broke into laughter. There was a note of sarcasm in his answer because he clearly meant that India was a backward country with just one TV set!

    This was in July 1969  But in 2008 the situation changed and India has been acknowledged as an emerging space power and what better proof of this than the success of the Chandrayaan-1 mission?   
    ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM) has learnt that the Deep space network of Canberra, Australia was used by ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lunar craft for maintainence. This is an hitherto unknown story of the Indian moon mission. Australians who in 1969 thought India was a backward nation, now supported its lunar programme! Truly there is a twist of irony in this development.

     Chandrayaan-1 lunar craft was designed for two years mission life. However some observations during he early phase of the mission time line called for the accelerated operations of the science instruments to accomplish the mission objectives in the shortest time frame.

      So, to operate the lunar craft on 24 X 7 basis, the support of Canberra station was sought by ISRO. The ready acceptance and the extented co-operation by the DSN operation crew enabled ISRO to operate Chandrayaan-1 lunar craft 24 X 7 basis. ``This ensured all the science instruments of Chandryaan-1 to deliver more than 7 TB of data covering the entire moon within an year. This was the secret behind the success of Chandryaan-1 even though the mission survived only 10 months,'' said an official.

    The support provided by Canberra station which was not originally planned prior to the start of the mission, has it's own share in the historical discovery of water on the lunar surface and lunar ice in the craters of lunar poles etc, says the official.

     Rs 2,200 for ``The Dish,'' was certainly worth it!


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