May 11 2011. Wednesday. ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM)'' sat in the auditorium of Barc's central complex at Trombay along with a handful of seientists and media colleagues waiting for what we all believed would be an important event.
The occasion? The 13th anniv of India' nuke weapons' test at Pokhran. The speaker? None other than the drdo chief, V.K.Saraswat, who is also the scientific adviser to the defence minister.
For such an important event, the hall was not full. What is further shocking was the fact that even the front row which is usually occupied by India's top nuke leaders like R.Chidambaram, Anil Kakodkar, P.K.Iyengar, was half empty. Surprisingly even the Barc director, R.K.Sinha, was absent. The only top shot present was chairman of atomic energy commission, S.Banerjee.
Saraswat began by talking about innovations, with reference to the situation at the drdo and later shifted his focus to futuristic aerospace technologies which included the design and development of new types of rockets and satellites, The bulk of his presentation related to the scenario in the US; if you were looking for something India-specific, you were in for a disappointment.
Later in an interaction with the media, Saraswat clarified that though his ppt was of a broad nature, some of the projects could be a part of drdo's future research work. Remember, the word used by him was future: this means that it could perhaps even stretch to the next century, No fixed time span indeed!
Though Banerjee in his welcome address was full of praise for the drdo, everybody knows that its overall record is not too impressive. Yes, on the missile front it has had some degree of success and so also its colloboration with Barc in designing a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately in several other areas it has failed.
Saraswat spoke a lot about Tejus---India's Light Combat Aircraft project. BMM recalls attending its well attended roll out on November 17, 1995 at Bangalore. On that day we were told by those connected with this project that it would be inducted into the IAF in about five years ie 2000. This was their dream. Now 16 year have passed and it remains a dream. All that has happened is that it has received operational clearance. Tejus has still to be inducted into the IAF.
Likewise the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) project--Avatar--and a programme to increase the payload fraction in a rocket have also remained a dream.
On Wednesday, nuke scientists celebrated the 13th anniv of India becoming a nuclear weapon country in the true sense. Their cherished dream had become a big reality and yes it was definately a moment to celebrate.
Similarly, one hopes that some of the stellar dreams of the drdo do not just a remain a dream, but become a reality too.