Thursday, March 3, 2011

Moonshot Mumbai

        Yes, it may be the age-old Armstrong statement, but in this context it is certainly significant---it is a small step, but a giant leap on to the surface of the moon.

        And this flight to the moon did not last four days, but just a few minutes. And believe it or not the journey can be completed without either a rocket or a spacecraft.

        Yes, in a way you can describe it as an astronautical feat. You may be puzzled and dazed.

         How can you achieve this?

         Drive to Worli, step into the Nehru Planetarium, go to the first floor, turn left and what greets you--a simulated lunar landscape with an astronaut standing on it. The ever-affable planetarium director, Piyush Pandey, told ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM)'' that the aim of the moonscape was mainly to inspire kids to participate in India's space missions, especially the lunar programme. On Thursday, a few children who ``stood''  on the surface of the moon and shook hands with the astronaut said that they felt thrilled and excited.

        The design of the moonscape was conceptualised entirely by Pandey and it took shape at a workshop near Mumbai Central station. The credit for making the moon goes to a young sculptor, Kedar Jagdish Dahibarkar. His wife, Trupti, made the astronaut.

        Pandey said that the total area of the moonscape was about 80 feet and the height of the astronaut was five feet. The total cost of the project was about Rs two lakhs. Significantly, the setting up of the comes against the background of India's highly successful mission to the moon, ``Chandrayaan-1,'' the forthcoming flight, ``Chandrayaan-2,'' slated for lift off in 2013, the first privately-funded lunar mission known as the Google Lunar X Prize, and India's joint flight to the moon with Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2016 designated as MoonRise.

       Incidentally, it may be recalled that the planetarium had a programme about Chandrayaan-1 which was launched on July 17,2008. It is now screened at periodical intervals.

       Kedar told BMM that the most challenging aspect of making the moonscape was fixing the craters. ``I based it on the pics given to me by Mr Pandey and it took two months to complete it involving 20 bags of plaster or paris. Once it was done it was taken by a truck to the planetarium,'' he said.

       Trupti said that the astronaut was strong and even if somone bangs on it with force nothing will happen. 

       A great and memorable flight to the moon at the planetarium.

       The planetarium already has two moon-related items----a small model of the lunar landscape in the lobby of the planetarium and a huge pics along the staircase. In addition, there is a also a model of the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft which Pandey hopes to display sometime in the near future. Perhaps, the planetarium can be partially renamed as ``moonarium.'' !!!!

        This wonderful planetarium  has taken a great moonshot and is a haven for moonstruck people like BMM.

        It is really Moonshot Mumbai.      

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