Friday, July 1, 2011

Flying in the shuttle commanded by Susmita

          None of us have flown in a space shuttle. The nearest ``Beyond Moon and Mars,''(BMM)  got to the shuttle was outside the Kennedy Space Centre in May 1995 when it and its wife, Usha, boarded a mock up and went around. It was really thrilling and exciting.

          Over the years, BMM has been regularly following various shuttle missions, brought books related to this fascinating vehicle and downloaded any number of videos. BMM never gets board of watching a video of a shuttle launch any number of times on a single day. Now it is waiting to download the video of the Atlantis launch on July 8  and needless to say the historic landing too.a few days later.

         BMM only wishes that it had an opportunity to see an actual shuttle and witness its grand lift off. On Wednesday, it pulled out a tiny brass model of the shuttle from the cupboard and placed it next to its computer. BMM has quite a few shuttle models which have been kept inside because its flat is being renovated.

        However, on Tuesday evening, BMM literally flew on a space shuttle. This was neither in a sim at the Johnson Space Centre nor in a mock up, but at the American Centre auditorium in New Marine Lines. The mission BMM thought would be scrubbed because of the heavy downpour that evening.

         The commander of the flight was a young enterprising Mumbai-based space entrepreneur, Susmita Mohanty, who has worked in Nasa on the Shuttle-Mir mission.

         Despite the thundershower, the auditorium was nearly full and Susmita took us on an exciting 90-minute trip in the shuttle. Weather was a `go' and the flight lifted off with a brief screening of the launch of Endeavour and then she went on to explain with a help of a ppt every aspect of the spaceplane, whose creation and role had been a subject of considerable controversy among US policy makers and even among Nasa scientists and engineers.

         With just a week left for the final shuttle mission--July 8--hats off to the American Centre for scheduling  such a programme. .BMM wishes that it organises similar space-related events more frequently.
         BMM has seen a number of pics and videos of the space shuttle, but honestly not watched anything in such minute detail. It seemed as though BMM was one of the crew members on board the shuttle.If BMM ever flew on the shuttle it wonders how it would have eaten or slept. Frankly, BMM's table manners are not too elegant--check with its daughter Rimanika--and eating on the shuttle would have been quite a task. It is for this reason that BMM gets a bit nervous if it has to eat in front of Rimu's friends from the JB Petit High School For Girls !!!!!!

         The ppt by Susmita kept the audience nailed to their seats. What a memorable flight it was. The mission  was followed by a q-and-a session and honestly while the qs of the youngsters were pretty well informed and intelligent, the same unfortunately cannot be said of those put by some of the older members of the audience.

          On reaching home that night BMM tried to download the ppt from livestream.

           Unfortunately, it could not be done!


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