Saturday, February 26, 2011

And we have lift off-----------Students chase Discovery.

          T-25 minutes: Countdown commenced.

          T-15 minutes: Cameras all go to launch.

          T-2   minutes: Payload secured.

          T-1   minute:   Air horn blast.

           T-0:               We have lift off.

          Do you guys think it is the launch of the space shuttle Discovery?  If you think it is, you are mistaken.

          Any guess?  Well folks students have done it again in the world of space and according to ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM), this should inspire youngsters all over the world.

          Early on Friday (IST) while Discovery was getting ready for launch at the Kennedy Space Centre, how many were aware that an another type of take off was getting ready. Not many. For reasons best known, it did not attract much media interest which is unfortunate..

         This comparitely unknown mission consisted of a high altitude balloon with a payload designed and developed not by rocket scientists or space experts, but by students. It was a part of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programme in the US. The project makes space science educationally productive, while at the same time providing a lot of fun and excitement. It is intellectually stimulating and India should encourage this type of activity.

        It is a project of an organisation known as Quest For Stars and is co-sponsored by the Challenger Centre For Science Education. The flight is one in a series conducted by the Quest For Stars, a California-based non-profit educational organisation which uses off-the-shelf hardware and little ingenuity which allows students to place experiments at the edge of space at a low price.

        The balloon was filled with helium and the payload was designated as Robonaut-1 (not the original Robonaut 1?). The balloon rose at a rate of 800-1000 feet per minute. Once it reached an altitude of 100,000 feet, the payload was released and came down by a parachute. On board Robonaut-1 was a high definition camera phone satellite

        What was the role of this student space mission? From the edge of space at an altitude of 100,000 feet the payload photographed.Discovery as it ascended and the film and pics were downloaded. BMM has downloaded the entire sequence and it is thrilling. The payload was released and came down by a parachute.
        Truly a great achievement which made the final launch of Discovery pretty memorable and significant.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Discovery---a personal story.

         This is a personal story of me--a spacebuff--and space shuttle Discovery.

        At. 1.30 a.m on Friday, ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM)'' awoke to watch the final launch of space shuttle, ``Discovery,'' on Nasa TV

       What happened?  Though the net was functioning and all other sites could be accessed, the home page of Nasa remained inaccessible. Each time BMM tried to open it, there was a message saying that the page cannot be opened for some technical reason. What did it mean? Nasa TV was out my reach. What a helluva disappointment. BMM had waited for this moment and what a terrible let down! BMM was terribly frustrated.

       This was something inexplicable because about four hours earlier, BMM was glued to the computer watching the docking of ``Johannes Kepler,---the second Automated Transfer Vehicle of the European Space Agency---to the International Space Station on Nasa TV. There was absolutely no problem. Why should Nasa go out of reach four hours later?

       BMM then tried to activitate the TV and tune on to CNN in the hope that it could see Discovery's  lift off. But, even this did not function!!!!  Discovery your luck is a bit strange!  Efforts to watch the unfolding drama at the Kennedy Space Centre through UStream also proved unsuccessful. This was supposedly showing the balloon experiment by some students. The balloon carried a camera which was capturing the lift off from a certain height.

       BMM reconciled to the situation, decactivated the computer and TV and once again hit the sack. In the morning , BMM received news on its e mail that the launch was successful. But, the Nasa site still could not be opened. This means that nearly 15 hours after the launch, BMM has only scrappy info about the launch.

       The story does not end here. BMM tried its luck with Youtube, but no luck either. Each time the highly interesting was opened, there was a message on the video screen saying that a flash player needs to be downloaded. Luck ran out again! This was not the case on Thursday.

       Now a computer engineer is once again on his way to find out what went wrong----not with the mission, of course, but with my computer!

       Anyway congrats Discovery. You finally made it Now my computer is behaving the way you did three months ago!.

       The main role of this mission is to deliver to the space station the Italian-built Permanent Multipurpose Module, the Express Logistics Carrier 4 and Robonauts 2. The module will provide additional storage for the station crew and experiments can also be conducted inside it. Robonaut-2 is the first human-like robot in space to become a permanent resident of the space station.

        Commanded by Steve Lindsay, the flight will witness two spacewalks.

        This was its last take off and when it touches down on March 7,2011, it will pass into history--the first space shuttle to be formally retired. It made its maiden flight on August 30,1984 and so far has flown 142,917,534 miles and spent a total of 361 days, 8441 hours, 50 minutes and 41 seconds in space, according to Nasa.

         It has completed 5528 orbits in 38 flights and carried a total of 246 crew members. It has docked with the space station 12 times.

         Some of its key milestones include returning to flight after the Challenger and Columbia disaster, launching the Hubble Space Telescope, first to rendevous with the Russian space station, Mir and the first to carry a Russian cosmonaut.

         In a way Discovery has some significance for us in India, because the Hubble Space Telescope which it launched confirmed Chandrayaan-1's discovery of water on the moon in January 2011..

         Discovery, we will always remember you though you proved to be a little troublesome towards the end of your majestic carrier.




Thursday, February 24, 2011

Want 2 settle down on the moon---Folo Chandrayaan

        Hi, Want to settle down on the moon?

        Well once again Chandrayaan-1 has the answer.

        The prestigious Rs 386-crore Indian moon mission  has found a place on the moon which scientists say is an ideal locale for possible human settlement in the future Post Apollo Chandrayaan-1 has opened the way for a human lunar mission.

        This important discovery has been detailed in a report published on Friday in ``Current Science,'' a journal, which is brought out in colloboration with the Indian Academy of Sciences. Incidentally, this
was one of the scientific organisations which gave the green signal for the Chandrayaan-1 programme.

        This report has been prepared by five scientists of the Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre, a
part of Isro. They are A.S.Arya, R.P.Rajasekhar, Guneshwar, Thangjam, Ajai and A.S.Kiran Kumar

        Coincidentally this report has come out at a time when two important human related space missions took place. This are docking of the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle, ``Johannes Kepler,'' to the International Space Station on Thursday night (IST) and the final launch of Nasa's space shuttle Discovery to the space station early on Friday (IST).
        According to the report prepared by the scientists, the area identified by Chandrayaan-1on the moon for human habitation is a place known as Oceanus Procellarum which consists of a buried, uncollapased and near horizontal lava tube and was detected by Chandrayaan's Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC).

       The report says that the advantage of using a lava tube for human settlement is that it provides a natural environmental control with a nearly constant temperature of minus 20 degrees C. They are
dust free and can serve as a trap for water ice.

       The TMC, designed and developed at the Space Applications Centre, was one of the 11 payloads on board Chandrayaan-1. The report said that a digital elevation model was generated to view the feature
in a three-dimensional perspective.

       Says the report: ``Such a lava tube could be a potential site for future human habitability on the moon for future human missionsand scientific explorations providing a safe environment from hazardous radiations, micro meteoric impacts, extreme temperatures and
dust storms.''

       According to Isro scientists who spoke to Toi on the condition of anonymity, this report assumes significance in the context of India exploring the possibility of embarking on manned mission to the moon
around 2020 or later. The other countries which are planning human lunar landings are the US, China and Japan.

      The report says identifying sites for permanent manned base stations on the moon is important for long term perspective of lunar exploration. It says that the absence of atmosphere and intrinsic magnetic field make the lunar surface vulnerable to impacts of meteorites or other bodies as well as energetic particles and
radiation making human settlement very difficult.

      ``Thus there is a need to identify locales which have survived the onslaught of meteoric impacts over ages and also shielded from energetic particles making them suitable for human settlement on the
moon,'' the report states.

Johannes Kepler docks with the International Space Station.

      February 24, 2011. Thursday. 9.28 p.m. (IST): ``Contact confirmed.'' said a controller at the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2) control room in Toulouse France.

      This much-awaited announcement triggered a loud applause from controllers at Moscow, Toulouse and Houston. ATV-2 christened Johannes Kepler successfully docked with the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS) carrying seven tonnes of supplies and fuel for raising the altitude of the space station.

      Four minutes prior to this, at 9.24 p.m.(IST) a controller at Nasa's Johnson Space Centre in Houston declared: ``Houston gives a go for final approach.''   This was followed by a announcement from the mission control centre at Toulouse saying ``Target nominal. Distance nominal.''

     9.25 p.m (IST):: ``All control teams all over the world have given the go for final docking. Docking time is four minutes left,'' was a Nasa announcement. Came a voice from the ATV control centre at Toulouse: ``Systems and range nominal. Docking systems working well.'' Johannes Kepler was moving at a velocity of a half-a-metre per second.

     For the docking of Johannes Kepler on Thursday night (IST) there was second-to-second co-ordination among controllers at the mission control centres at Moscow, Toulouse and Houston. They were constantly in touch with each other exchanging data.

    With just two-and-a-half minutes left for docking, a controller at Toulouse said: ``Standing by for capture.'' This was followed by another annoucement saying ``Contact confirmed at 9.28 p.m. (IST).

    The approach and docking were achieved autonomously by Johannes Kepler's own computers. Its own second set of sensors and computers provided an independent check. At the time of docking both the spacecraft and the space station were orbiting at a velocity of 28,000 kms per hour. However, the relative speed during the final approach remained below seven cms per second, according to the ESA.Johannes Kepler docked with Russia's Zvezda module.

     According to ESA, the 20-tonned spacecraft computed its position through sensors pointed at laser reflectors on the station to determine its distance and orientation relative to the target. Immediately after the docking, ESA director of human spaceflight, Simonetta Di Pippo, remarked: ``We are more ready than ever to head into an era of autonomy in space exploration.'' Probably what she means is that ESA will try and be independent of Nasa!
    The historic docking  took place over the Atlantic Ocean above the West coast of Africa. ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM)'' watched the entire exercise on Nasa TV. BMM was doubtful whether it could see this because of some problems with computer during earlier part of the day. An engineer rushed home and managed to set it right. BMM hopes it will work for some time atleast !

    The ISS is now a mini UN. On the opposite end of Johannes Kepler was the Japanese unmanned spacecraft Kounotori and not far from Kepler is the Russian spacecraft Soyuz. If Nasa's space shuttle ``Discovery'' lifts off successfully, early on Friday (IST) it will join the space station in two days.

    The docking of Johannes Kepler will be followed by the transfer of cargo from the spacecraft to the space station and vice versa--the shifting of unwanted items from the station to the Johannes Kepler. The spacecraft will remained docked with the space station for 96 days before detaching, re entering the earth's atmosphere and burning up over the Pacific Ocean.

    A big congrats from BMM to Johannes Kepler and all those involved with the mission.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

School kid in French Guyana designs patch for Soyuz flight to mark 50th anniv of Gagarin's mission.

Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov Approves the Patch of the Soyuz TMA-21 Crew

      As the 50th anniv of Yuri Gagarin's flight is steadily taking of, the head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Anatoly Perminov, approved the patch of the next crew to fly to the International Space Station ISS) in Russian vehicle Soyuz TMA-21. The lift off is slated for March 20 2011, next year.

   According to Roscosmos, the patch uses a drawing by French boy, Marciel Santos Kayle, 12, who lives in French Guiana, not far away from the new launch pad for Russian Soyuz rockets.

     The winner of traditional Roscosmos’ patch contest has been invited to visit Baikonur to witness the upcoming launch.
     As Roscosmos head had noted earlier, Soyuz TMA-21 will have GAGARIN sign on it. The launch is to be devoted to the 50th anniversary of the first space mission by Yuri Gagarin.

    Marciel’s sketch was chosen for the crew emblem, as it depicts Gagarin and his crew vehicle Vostok. The patch is to be worn by the Soyuz prime crew – Alexander Samokutiaev, Andrey Borisenko and Ronald Garan.

       According to Roscosmos, Marciel has five brothers and four sisters. Since his mother’s death three years ago, Marciel lives in the family of his uncle. He goes in for drawing and dreams about becoming a cosmonaut.

      So, Marciel and other three young winners will be awarded trips to Baikonur in 2011.
Roscosmos has been running the Soyuz patch contest for two years. Eight Russian crew vehicles have been flown into space with the patches made by young artists. Among the winners, there were children from the USA and China.
      Perhaps Isro could emulate the example of both Roscosmos and Nasa and encourage children of India to participate in space missions by allowing them to name the rover which will land on the moon during the Chandrayaan-2 flight slated for lift off in 2013.



Monday, February 21, 2011

Countdown clock ticking away for Discovery launch on Thursday.

       It is action once again at the Kennedy Space Centre for the Discovery launch on Thursday at 4.50 p.m. (est) which approximately will be in the early hours of Friday in India. Brring any techinal glitches or weather related issues Discovery will hopefully roar off the launch pad in its final mission. ``Beyond Moon and Mars,'' will try and watch the lift off on Nasa TV

     At the time of writing this blog, the countdown clock on the Nasa website said that the launch was two days 17 hours and 33 minutes away. When it is T-43 hours, various checks will be initiated. This launch is arousing a lot of interest because it got delayed by two-and-a-half months because of cracks in the shuttle's external tank and weather problems. Right now the launch team must be keeping its fingers crossed and praying that it should be a hazzle-free mission. Let us wait and watch what happens.

     A Nasa press release issued on February 22 says that the countdown for Discovery’s launch on the STS-133 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) is under way. The count began on-time at 3 p.m. EST with the team at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Control Center not working any significant issues. The weather forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of acceptable conditions at launch time, says Nasa.

   Countdown clocks are ticking backward from the T-43 hour point. With seven holds built in, the countdown will lead to the scheduled launch of Discovery at 4:50 p.m.on Thursday, Feb. 24.

   According to Nasa the shuttle is in good shape, test Director Jeff Spaulding said on Monday morning. This mission is slated to be Discovery's last flight into space. The spacecraft has gone into orbit 38 times before. Discovery launched its first mission Aug. 30, 1984.

   Thursday promises to be an important day for the ISS because again if things go on schedule, then European Space Agency's unmanned spacecraft, ``Johannes Kepler,'' will dock with the space station. It was launched on Friday with seven tonnes of cargo.

    It would have been a historic in space history because originally, Isro's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (pslv) would have also lifted off on February 24. But, it has been resked to March because certain tests have to be carried out.

    All the very best for all these missions.



Sunday, February 20, 2011

April 22 2011---release of Apollo 18-- a sci fi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Apollo 18

Teaser poster
Directed byGonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Produced byTimur Bekmambetov
Screenplay byBrian Miller
Distributed byDimension Films
Release date(s)April 22, 2011 (2011-04-22)
CountryUnited States
Budget$5 million[1]

Apollo 18 is an upcoming 2011 science fiction film directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego in his first English-language film.



[edit] Plot

       Wait for April folks. A lot is happening that month on the space front. On April 12, 2011 world over there will be celebrations to mark the 50th anniv of Yuri Gagarin's flight.

       Ten days later on April 22 2011, the film Apollo 18 will be released. But hold it----remember it is a sci fi.

       According to Wikipedia, a found footage style film about a fictional post-Apollo 17 mission to the Moon that takes on a premise of why we never went back. The plot involves a government cover up of the Apollo 18 mission after aliens on Earth's Moon discovered the crew and began to kill them off one by one.

       On Sunday ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM),'' accessed the official website of Apollo 18, but it hardly contained anything--just a few words and some sounds lasting for a few seconds. Why call it official at all?

       Well there could be some other reasons for not extending the manned lunar flights, till Apollo 20 as it was originally planned, BMM, refuses to believe that killing of the crew members of Apollo 18 by aliens on the moon could be the main reason for cancelling the lunar missions post Apollo 17. If we have to go by this theory then why did not these so called aliens on the moon attack the astronauts of the earlier Apollo missions? Why choose only Apollo 18 only ?

        The story seems to have the making of a promising sci fi, and BMM is waiting to see it. BMM has been reading every available book about the Apollo missions. but so far has not come across a sci based on this historic flight. Maybe it exists, but BMM is not aware of it,

        In this connection, BMM recalls its meeting with Eugene Cernan, the last man to stand on the surface of the moon at Mumbai airport, and taking his autograph on his book which was presented to BMM by the organisers of his visit to Mumbai Cernan said that the Apollo missions should have been extended. He was the commander of Apollo 17.

        Folks let us see what Apollo 18 has in store for us.

        The countdown has started.

        But from Monday there is another countdown which is being initated. This is for the much awaited and final launch of space shuttle Discovery on February 24, which will correspond to February 25 in India.

        All the best.





Thursday, February 17, 2011

India joins Google Lunar X Prize

        First came the discovery of water by Chandrayaan-1. Last week this important find was confirmed by Nasa's Hubble Space Telescope. This was followed by an annoucement by Isro chairman, K.Radhakrishnan, that India may participate in Nasa's mission to the moon, ``MoonRise.'' Yes, a fairly active period for India on the lunar front.

      On Thursday, it was again the turn of secretary of India chapter of Moon Society, Pradeep Mohandas, to inform ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM) that India will be participating in the prestigious Google Lunar X Prize. The Indian space enthus have been named their group Team Indus and its leader is New Delhi-based Rahul Narayan.

      Honestly, Pradeep has been off and on talking BMM about this lunar competition. But BMM a spacebuff and passionate about space exploration, somehow failed to respond very actively!  BMM accepts that it was its fault!!!!!!!!!!!  But not on Thursday night when BMM made its best efforts to contact Rahul in New Delhi, but did not succeed. BMM was doing a report about Team Indus for The Times of India.

      BMM accessed Team Indus's website which said :
    ``Team Indus seeks to represent the aspirations of one of the world's oldest civilization and youngest population.

     ``Headquartered in New Delhi, India we are a team of professionals from Technology, Science, Finance and Media background all of whom have made a habit of pushing boundaries.

     ``Team Indus is a for-Profit organization and plans for GLXP to be the first step towards establishing a Global Innovation brand. We plan to reward all contributors to our team by ensuring long-term commercial interest.

     ``We are in the process of setting up a non-profit education foundation that will work towards creating a space education & awareness campaign in India. All articles, media generated in our pursuit of GLXP will be assigned to this foundation.

     ``We have a few out-of-the-box theories on each phase of the mission, going radical on technology was the obvious choice given the late entry. Our initial planning suggests we will take about 3years to prepare for a potential launch, the launch in all likelihood will be done from India. Team Indus plans to attempt the Endurance and Distance bonus prizes.

     ``It is a privilege to be part of GLXP's exclusive group of teams, we are excited by the possibilities and eagerly look forward to putting up a good show!

     BMM wishes Team Indus God Speed and Good Luck and once again looks forward to seeing the Indian tri colour on the moon

     The significance of the competition is that it is the first privately-funded race to the moon. Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation announced on Wednesday night 29 teams from 17 countries will take part in the lunar race for the 30 million dollar prize.

    The competition, which was first announced on September 134,2007, envisages teams flying a robot to the moon which can travel atleast 500 metres on the lunar surface and transmit, video, images and data back to the earth. 

    The second prize is five million dollars. In addition there is a four million dollar bonus prizes for achieving specific mission objectives, including operation at night, travelling more than five kms, detection of water and executing a precise landing near an Apollo site.

     An award of one million dollar will be given to the team which demonstrates the greatest attempts to promote diversity in the field of space exploration.
     BMM hopes to interact with Team Indus members frequently in the days ahead and also participate in the mission in the best way it can.
     All the very very best.


Monday, February 14, 2011

A Giant ``step'' on Mars

Walking on 'Mars'
14 February 2011
Forty two years after man first landed on the moon, history was created again on Monday.

    According to the European Space Agency (ESA). three crewmembers of the virtual flight to Mars on their destination planet and two of them today took their first steps on the simulated martian terrain. The highlight of the Mars500 mission lasted for one hour and 12 minutes, starting at 13:00 Moscow time, according to ESA..

   ESA says that this Mars is housed in the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, on the next storey up the cylindrical modules housing the Mars500 crew. Six men have been already been isolated for more than eight months during the first full-duration simulated flight to Mars.

   Three of the crew, Russian Alexandr Smoleevskiy, Italian Diego Urbina and Chinese Wang Yue, entered the lander on 8 February and they ‘landed’ on Mars four days later.
  ESA says that after this first sortie, they will venture twice more onto the surface simulator wearing Russian Orlan spacesuits.  

  ”Europe has for centuries explored Earth, led by people like Columbus and Magellan,” said Diego at the beginning of his three-hour ‘Marswalk’ with Alexandr.

 “Today, looking at this red landscape, I can feel how inspiring it will be to look through the eyes of the first human to step foot on Mars.I salute all the explorers of tomorrow and wish them godspeed,” he said.
  The next sortie, by Alexandr and Yue, will be on 18 February, followed by the last, again by Alexandr and Diego, on 22 February.


  Gusev crater

  The terrain, about 10 m long and 6 m wide, is covered with reddish sand and is built to resemble the surface at Gusev crater
  According to ESA Gusev, an old lakebed filled with sediments, is one of the most interesting targets for investigation by robotic explorers and humans. NASA’s Spirit rover landed there in 2004 and has shown the crater holds many clues to the planet’s wet history.

Diego and Alexandr with soil samples
Diego and Alexandr with soil samples
Soyuz-like living for 16 days

 The three Marswalkers will live in their 6.3 x 6.17 m lander for 16 days, eating the type of food carried on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft and enjoying only limited exercise.
The lander will return to orbit on 23 February and dock with the mothership the following day. The hatch between the modules will be opened on 27 February for them to rejoin Romain Charles, Alexey Sitev and Sukhrob Kamolov, who have continued to ‘orbit’ Mars.

Mars500 press conference 14 February 2011
Press conference today
Already a successful mission

“The crew is highly motivated and performing very well,” said Jennifer Ngo-Anh, ESA's Mars500 manager.
“The science community is very pleased with the quality of the material but, as this is a long experiment, we have to wait for the results until their ‘arrival’ at Earth.
“At this point, everything looks very good.”
  The most difficult but the most interesting part of this psychological study of long flights is still ahead: the crew is now faced with another monotonous ‘interplanetary cruise’ without a highlight like the Mars landing to look forward to.
  They will start their eight month journey back home on 1 March, after loading the lander with rubbish and discarding it, as will likely happen during the first real Mars flight.

Mars500 ‘arrives’ in orbit around Mars Mars500
Mars500 quick factsMars500 crew
Mars500 Photos
Gallery #1 - BeforeGallery #2 - July 2010
Mars500 Mission Diary
Unpacking the Lander and preparing for a hike on MarsApproaching the Red PlanetCelebrating Chinese New Year - even on Mars!
   Copyright 2000 - 2011 © European Space Agency. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nasa and India---a twist of irony.

      It is a story laced with irony.

      In 2008-09, Nasa snatched away the credit from India for the discovery of water on the moon

      Now almost two years later, a prestigious Nasa mission, none other than the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) which was launched by the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1999, has confirmed that the water on the moon was first found by Chandra Altitudunal Composition Explorer, in short known as Chace, which was one of the three payloads on board the indigenous Moon Impact Probe (MIP) of Chandrayaan-1. Analysis of the data from the HST has endorsed Chace's findings which will make top Isro officials who are now under a scanner for their alleged involvement in the Antrix-Devas perhaps hang their head in shame. This is really ironical.

      The confirmation was announced at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in January 2011. A very elated project manager of Chace, Syed Maqbool Ahmed, told ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM)'' S:ientists from the Western world for the first time acknowledged the published work of direct evidence of water on the moon by India.'' Congrats Syedji. Chace, you and your team have done India proud. All of you are deserving of greater honours.

      An article in the current issue of ``Voyage,'' the in-house journal of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre by Tirtha Pratim Das, a scientist, who was a part of the Chace project says: ``Observations from the Hubble Space Telescope have confirmed the discovery of the water and hydroxyl atmosphere in the lunar environment made by the CHACE payload in Chandrayaan-1/MIP mission. When it said `water atmosphere or `hydroxyl atmosphere' in scientific jargon, it really means the presence of water molecules or hydroxyl molecules making their independent (non-interacting) respective atmospheres in the lunar environment without any inter-particle collision.''

      He writes: ``The CHACE (Chandra's Altitudunal Composition Explorer) experiment onboard the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) in Chandrayaan-1 mission made the first successful measurement on the lunar day-side atmosphere on 14th November,2008. .... The analysis of CHACE data revealed the presence of H20 and 0H molecules in significant amount at all the latitudes maximising ......''

       Das said that the observation was published during the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in January 2011.   

     Chace made the sensational breakthrough on the night of November 14,2008, while the MIP was zooming towards the moon. The scientists had the confirmed data 10 days later. Despite this it was surprising that Isro wanted to announce the discovery only after Nasa had confirmed it. Why should this have happened?  Does Nasa announce its findings only after Isro had endorsed it. No never. Nasa has tremendous confidence in its scientists.

     The reason given by Madhavan Nair, who announced the discovery 10 months later in September 2009 was that since MIP's was a short duration flight only lasting for 26 minutes, Isro wanted more proof from Nasa before going public. It did not want to do anything in a hurry. Carle Pieters, principal investigator of the Moon Minerology Mapper (M3), which was one of the six foreign instruments of Chandrayaan-1, took advantage of this and walked away with the bouquets for the findings which grabbed the world media headlines. Yes, she gave tributes to Isro and Chandrayaan-1 during her Washington media briefing, but surprisingly avoided any reference to Chace. Why?  Nair was then chairman of Isro.

     BMM wonders whether Isro will announce the important confirmation by HST in its website. Till now there is no mention of Chace's discovery in the website. Extremely strange situation and BMM would label it as Moongate after Watergate. It is a real scam and a group of scientists need to probe this.

     Again hats off to Ahmedji and his team of young scientists who have really placed the tri colour on the moon.

     In another important development, Isro chairman, K.Radhakrishnan, announced on Saturday that the Space Commission has given the `go' for India's participation in Nasa's mission to the moon designated as MoonRise.

      The mission is slated for launch in October 2016 and the rocket will be the Atlas V-531 from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Radhakrishnan said that the Indian spacecraft will weigh between 400-500 kgs with a five-year life span

       He said that this moon mission is a result of Obama's visit to India during which a joint statement was released which emphasised stronger co-operation in the space sector between both the countries.

       Radhakrishnan said that Nasa will formally take a decision regarding India's participation later this year. It is learnt through other sources that the task of negotiating with Nasa, apart from Isro officials will also be handled by the space counsellor at the Indian embassy in Washington DC.        
       Though MoonRise is a sample return mission---meaning it will return one kg of rock samples from the moon's South Pole Aitken basin for analysis--it is however, not clear whether it will be an orbiting mission with regards to India or whether it will also be a sample return mission.

        Will Indian labs have an opportunity to analyse the lunar rocks as it happened with the Apollo missions?

         These questions have to be answered.



Saturday, February 12, 2011

Exactly 24 hours later....................from Davos to Devas

         On Friday president of Pune-India chapter of the National Space Society (NSS), Suresh Naik, told ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM), in the course of an interview for The Times of India, that Antrix should not be a part of Isro.

         He was speaking to BMM in connection with the current Isro scam following the deal with Devas, a Bangalore-based firm. Naik's observation assumes significance in the context of him being a former scientist with Isro's Space Application Centre located in Ahmedabad.

         He said that if Antrix had remained a separate entity and not a commercial arm of Isro, the space agency's reputation would have remained unscathed. According to him Isro should emulate the example of Nasa and focus on research rather than on commercial operations.

         What happened 24 hours later?  Naik's vision turned partly into a reality. At the Space Commission's meeting held in New Delhi on Saturday, a decision was taken that K.Radhakrishnan would be divested of his responsibility as chairman of Antrix and a new chairman-cum-managing director for Antrix would be appointed for which a search committee has been set up.

         Radhakrishnan told the media that a separate CMD for Antrix was now needed because it had acquired the status of what is known as a mini-ratna organisation. If we are believe him then the question is why was this important announcement not made earlier?  It was done only after the scam broke out, clearly indicating that this was the real reason for removing Radhakrishnan. Under the circumstances one cannot arrive at any other conclusion. This is only too obvious. Radhakrishnan's statement is, therefore, again a clear cover up.

         The question now is---is this stage one for removing Radhakrishnan as chairman of Isro also at a later stage?  There is speculation among space scientists that this could happen too and according to media reports he had expressed a desire to call it a day. If he resigns it only means that he is acknowledging that he too has some responsibility for the scam and bringing bad name to Isro-----an organisation which earned the title of being the true Brand Ambassador to India on January 22,2007 at the Davos meet, following the success of the first Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-1).

         Also as a part of restructuring Antrix, is the appoinment of a new cmd suggest that it marks phase one of Antrix being completely converted into a independent body not under Isro?  

         While Isro has decided to annul its controversial agreement with Devas, it is expected to be ratified by the Cabinet Committee For Security next week. Isro officials told BMM that the process has to be completed by March 9,2011. One Davos brought credit to Isro while Devas brought it discredit. Really it is from Davos to Devas!

         Whatever it is in just 24 hours the vision of Naik became a partial reality.

          Congrats Naik.




Friday, February 11, 2011

Need to know and Right to Know

      Isro chairman K.Radhakrishnan operates on the basis of the ``Need To Know.'' But, he is perhaps unaware that the public which is the taxpayer has the ``Right To Know.''

      Four days into the Isro spectrum scam, and PM Manmohan Singh constituded a two-man committee to probe the controversial Antrix-Devas deal which has triggered a controversy.

      Why a controversy? The reason is that one of the members of this committee, B.K. Chaturvedi, was the Cabinet Secretary when the deal was controversial deal was clinched. The other member is Roddam Narasimha, former director of National Aerospace Laboratory. Opposition parties have already objections to Chaturvedi's inclusion. The issue is getting murkier and murker and it is unfortunate that Isro which brought honours to India by taking this country to the moon and received bouquets is today getting nothing but brickbats after brickbats.

       All this perhaps could have been avoided if only Isro were a little more transparent in its operations and dealings. It should have considered the fact that the public has the ``Right To Know.'' This was emphasised by Mayank Vahia, a Tifr space scientist to ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM)'' a short while ago. His opinion has been shared by other scientists too. But good news. Isro has decided to become a bit transparent. And how?   It has finally decided to list the names of the space commission members on its website! It has realised that everyone has the ``Right To Know'' this information.  After all if the department of atomic energy which deals with nuclear weapons can do this, why not Isro?

       Good. This is the first step towards Isro becoming a little more transparent and open. This is a matter of irony---perhaps the controversial Antrix-Devas deal will help Isro to atlast change its work culture and become more open: out of the ashes something good will finally emerge: hopefully.

       On Saturday February 12 2012 is an important meeting of the Space Commission in New Delhi. But, unfortunately its agenda and the delibrations remain a top secret. In order to avoid the usual misrepresentation of facts and confusion in the media it would be advisable if the commission considers issuing a statement at the end of the session. In view of the current developments, the Space Commission should be aware that this particular meeting will attract a lot of media as well as public interest. The public and the media have the ``Right To Know.''

       Assuming that Isro is zooming into a transparent trajectory, the following needs to be considered:-

       * The GSLV failure analysis report as well as the other committee report should be available in its original form on the Isro website. A mere summary through a press release should not be there.

       *  The Suresh Committee report should be hosted on the website again in its original form.

       *  The Lunar Task Force report prepared by George Joseph and his team when the Indian moon mission was being planned should also be publicised. Why should this remain a secret even after Chandrayaan-1 has successfully completed its mission? This is secrecy being carried to ridiculous extents.

       In this respect Isro needs to follow the example of the American system which declassifies items after a certain period of time. To repeat Isro must be aware that the public has the right to know since it is the taxpayer. Also bulk of Isro programmes are not classified ones. BMM has in its possession declassified US documents relating to as sensitive a subject like India's nuclear weapons programme. All these are available on the website of the American National Security archives.

       What prevents someone from filing a RTI and obtaining all these Isro reports? This can happen.

        Wake up. We are living in a new era.

         The public has the ``Right To Know.''    





Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Iran to launch several satellites: Space Daily

Iran to launch several satellites: Ahmadinejad

by Staff WritersTehran (AFP) Feb 7, 2011Iran plans to launch several home-built satellites by March 2012, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday after the unveiling of four new prototypes. "I think from the end of this (Iranian) year (to March 20) and through the next year, we will see many launches" of domestically-built satellites, Ahmadinejad said at a ceremony in Tehran.
The president's remarks coincide with celebrations of the 32nd anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution that falls on February 11.
Every year Iran uses the run-up to the anniversary to trumpet its scientific, technological and military achievements.
Iran's missile and space programmes have sparked concern abroad that such advanced technologies, combined with the nuclear know-how which the nation is acquiring, may enable Tehran to produce an atomic weapon.
Tehran denies its nuclear programme has military aims.
Iran unveiled on Monday what it said were prototypes of four new home-built satellites -- Rasad (Observation), Fajr (Dawn), Zafar (Victory) and Amir Kabir-1 and also the engines of a Safir-B1 (Ambassador-B1) rocket, reports said.
The country does not have an operational satellite of its own but Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi announced in December that two satellites, Fajr and Rasad-1, would be launched by the end of the current Iranian year to March 20.
But on Sunday, Vahidi said a launch date for Fajr and Rasad-1 was "not fixed" yet, indicating their launch would likely be delayed.
Iran in February 2009 sent into space its first home-built test satellite Omid (Hope) carried by a Safir-2 rocket.
Twelve months later, it launched a capsule carrying live turtles, rats and worms aboard a Kavoshgar-3 (Explorer-3) rocket in what was Iran's first experiment to send living creatures into space.
Ahmadinejad repeated previous pronouncements that Tehran aims to send an Iranian into space by 2020.
"The aim of sending a man into space by 2020 can be achieved ... and before this we can send robots or other things," he said.
State television later showed him unveiling what was a space capsule intended to be launched by a future Iranian rocket Kavoshgar-4 carrying a monkey.
"Sending this is the first step towards sending a man into space," state news agency IRNA quoted Hamid Fazeli, the head of the Iranian Space Organisation, as saying.
Fajr, which was unveiled on Monday, is a reconnaissance satellite constructed by the defence ministry, while Amir Kabir-1, details of which were unavailable, is built by Tehran's Amir Kabir university.
Rasad is constructed by Malek Ashtar University of Tehran which is linked to Iran's elite military force, the Revolutionary Guards, while details of Zafar were unavailable.
Iranian media reports said last week that the Safir-B1 rocket can carry a satellite weighing 50 kilograms (110 pounds) into an elliptical orbit of 300 to 450 kilometres (185 to 280 miles).
Iran on Sunday opened its first centre to receive satellite images, a new stage in its space programme and the equipment for which it says have been manufactured locally.

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      On Monday evening, ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM)''  telephoned a friend at the Isro hq in Bangalore to get info about the status of  YouthSat which is expected to be launched on February 20.

      The friend sounded extremely hazzled and said he has been busy the whole day because of a series of developments. When BMM inquired about the developments, the official asked: ``Have you not read The Hindu? . Everything is given in the paper.'' Asked if the report was absolutely correct, he said it was factual  on the whole, though there were a few gaps.

      BMM accessed The Hindu on the net and read the report which said that the CAG has questioned the way Isro's commercial subsidiary, Antrix Corporation, has given the s spectrum to a private firm, Davos International, headed by a former senior space agency official Chandrashekhar. The report said that the exchequer had lost several crores because of Isro's decision.

      The whole day the channels were covering the development in detail, many of them of course in an exaggerated manner. Though the present chairman of the space agency, K.Radhakrishnan, may not be directly involved, still his tenure has seen unfortunate events casting a slur on Isro's super image. There were two GSLV failures and now comes the scam.

      Antrix Corporation has been negotiating with a number of countries regarding getting their satellites launched by our Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). What prevents the CAG from finding fault in the procedure?  We have always presumed that Isro and Antrix have maintained a clean record. Let it remain that way.

      Isro has a huge organisation spread over several centres. Its reputation cannot suffer because of foolish decisions taken by a handful of individuals, Let us not forget that foreign customers have tremendous trust in Isro and its work horse, the four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

      Monday's disclosures could not have come out at a worst time for Isro because an US trade delegation led by its commerce secretary, Gary Locke, is in India to discuss business with Isro, among other organisations. The revelations would have caused a lot of embarrassment to the space agency's officials. 

      Also the forthcoming launch of the PSLV on Feb 20 will be under the shadow of this scam.

      Will the successful launch make people forget the scam?