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Lift off September 2, 2007

Posted by PagMax in India, ISRO, space.

 More than a year after I mourned for ISRO’s splash down, today we finally have a lift-off  of the same launch vehicle carrying identical satellite!

GSLV-F04 successfully placed INSAT-4CR in Orbit. In my opinion, It is a defining moment for Indian space program, firstly because it is first of INSAT series to be launched from Indian Soil (Earlier INSAT vehicles were piggybacked to Arena rocket launched from Kourou, French Guiana), and secondly it puts in confidence in our mission to moon and manned space flight. And of course, dozen of high-power Ku-band transponders onboard will make your network television look even better..!!




(Picture taken from ISRO website without permission).

Space, Religion and Journalism December 27, 2006

Posted by PagMax in ISRO, religion, science, space, Vatican.

I am finally writing after a LONG time out of my really lazy schedule. Probably my last one for this year and this year ends in 4 days.


Last week Dr. Kasturirangan (former Chairman of ISRO) was appointed as academician in pontifical academy of sciences.

Just for the starters, this academy is part of Vatican (though claims to function independently) and aims at devlopement of scientific research.  Pretty noble idea, however,  here are two issues (not related to each other and not directly related to this news) which popped into my mind


India’s Possible First Manned Mission – Are we ready yet? November 7, 2006

Posted by PagMax in manned flight, space.

There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society.

As a kid, I was never too excited about this vision, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai has laid for space future of India.

TODAY, for the first time (as far as I can tell)   ISRO has (arguably) contradicted this idea and has officially spoken positively about FIRST INDIAN MANNED MISSION TO SPACE.
Though they did not speak much, I am  excited!! Indian going up there from Indian Soil…!!
(Remember only Indian so far who has been to space is Sqdrn Leader. Rakesh Sharma in 1984. But he piggybacked himself on a Russian (Then Soviet Union) spacecraft).

If this happens exactly the way we plan, pretty soon they would be looking for an Astronaut Candidate. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT..!!!
I wonder who that fortunate and brave person would be. I grew up all my life dreaming to be one. Although, its highly unlikely that this person would NOT be from Air-force.
Alan Shepered,  Yuri Gagarin, and Yang Liwei (First ones from USA, Russia and China) all had Flying background through either Air-force or Navy. Its certainly a plus if you want to be an astronaut anytime.

By IAF, (where I does not stand for Israel) I am too old to fly a air-force plane now and pretty soon I will be too old even to enter the force by any means.
Summarizing, its not going to ME.  (As if..!!)

So who is left now?
Well let us see.. lot depends on what time frame we are looking at..here is what ISRO has to say..

The preliminary estimated cost for the Manned Space Mission is Rs.10,000 crore spread over a period of 8 years.

8 years…, I say too optimistic. Lets make it 16. From past missions around the world, my guess is he (yes HE, as much as we respect the power and abilities of a woman, we are not sending a girl up there on our first mission), would be in his mid-late thirties during the launch. So my guess is this guy is now about 19-20. So friends! if you are in your late teens or early twenties, I will say send that application to IAF. (You have be less than 22 to be able to fly and I  already tried to change that age-limit, did not work. So do not waste your time on that).
I cannot intelligently comment on the number “Rs.10,000 crore” as cost estimate, but in a country like India, where more than 15 farmer kill themselves everyday because they do not have enough food, its not really going to be easy for everyone to appreciate that kind of budget. Now its certainly debatable. If we pull this off, we would make LOT LOT LOT of money directly or indirectly. What if we do not..!!

Are we really ready for this..?? Is this an investment well worth? Would the pride of possibly being 4th nation to send a man to space would resolve any of our existing problems? Ironically, growing up with lunar landing pictures on my bedroom walls and dreaming one day we would Indian flag up there, today I must say I am neutral on this one..!!

Just a note: I am a doctoral student in aerospace engineering and I try my best to keep myself updated with all the recent  and past developments in this field. So dont misinterpret my neutral stand as lack of my knowledge or lack of passion toward space development. If I get into that, it would be reeeally a long post and I just want to keep arguments on pros and cons only for comments. I am hoping to have some decent and informative discussion on both the aspects of this development.

Update: Hindustan Times claims, that ISRO has claimed to send an Indian to Moon by 2020. I did not see this declaration on ISRO’s website.  If it is true, thats a ridiculous claim.  NASA is planning to send a man up there by 2020! Do I need to say more why its a ridiculous claim…!!

UPDATE 2: Article on New Scientist Space on this topic. Various interesting viewpoints from experts around the world discussed.

A speech not delivered September 23, 2006

Posted by PagMax in history, moon, space.

I was watching a documentary on Apollo 11 mission and they mentioned an interesting fact which I confirmed later by google search.

The chances of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (I have had pleasure to see both of them from 10 feet distance!) returning back from the moon were 1 in 6. (The engine which cranks up the lunar module, failed five or six times before it worked during practice sessions and due to weight constraints, they had only one shot to make it work on the moon!).

So then Honorable president (Not so honorable after watergate scandal!), Richard Nixon asked his speech writer to prepare a speech in case of mishap.  of course, fortunately, the speech never had to be delivered.

What really amuses me is while these two guys were up risking their lives to create history, Nixon wanted to make sure his English sounds poetic enough if he has to deliver the bad news.

Here is the full text of the speech which I found on this website which has some other information as well.

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

 Another interesting point is what if Nixon had to deliver this speech. How the history would have changed. Would NASA have just moved on to Apollo 12  to give it another shot or would they have just shut down the program. Looking at the history of NASA, may be they would have given it another shot.  However, Apollo-1, Challenger, Columbia disaster were different. Astronauts died almost immediately attempting to do which was already done before. This one, was attempting something which world has never seen before and was watching it live and you just leave two men up there to die of lack of oxygen or by suicide. A completely unprecedented example and I think NASA would have been under lot of pressure to shut the program for ever. In either case, the space development what we see today might  not have been the same.

BTW, I am sure you do know this but just in case, both Neil and Buzz are alive to this day!!

Sorry, No more ‘Pizza’ August 24, 2006

Posted by PagMax in space.

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas..if this phrase reminds you of nine Planets, better change it to My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nothing, because International Astronomical Union, declared today that Pluto is  not a planet anymore and neither are other three contenders (Ceres, Charon and Xena) who were hoping to hop into  planet family.

So its not nine, certainly not twelve ., its just Eight Planets.

Pluto looses out on last two of the three conditions as presented on BBC

  • it must be in orbit around the Sun
  • it must be large enough that it takes on a nearly round shape
  • it has cleared its orbit of other objects
  • So yes size does matter..!

    I doubt if anything would change in Nasa’a  Horizon mission which was launched early this year and is scheduled to reach the so far largest of dwarf planets and once a planet, Pluto by 2015.

    On another note, the present configuration will still have only 5 planets in common with Navagraha (Nine Planets) according to Indian Mythology. These navagrahas are Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu. (First seven representing the seven days of the week in order). 

    Pluto was kind of my favorite planet so far but I agree that it has to go because if it stays, there would be at least 100 more neighboring objects which have to be let in. This decision will surely throw Pluto into anonymity. How many of us heard of Ceres before  which was also a planet once upon a time?

    But again, so what? Why do I care if Pluto is a planet or not? How did it effect me when it was one. Other than my neighbor naming a dog after then ninth planet, I do not see how else it would have changed the life around me..

    Nonetheless, Pluto, I will miss you, from this planet..!

    Update: Terminology used here must be carefully reviewed. When I say Pluto is not a planet, all I mean is Pluto is not a classical planet. It IS after all still a planet. Just a dwarf one. Again, even though Size does matter, there is nothing “DWARF” about pluto. We all know Mercury is the smallest planet. So if you are near, you can afford to be small and  be in a near circular obit. Newton said it all..! Unfortunatley Pluto is small and far!  But you can certainly say Pluto is a planet, just not the same type as Earth!.

    Expanding Solar System August 18, 2006

    Posted by PagMax in Blogroll, space.

    Astronomers around the world are surely divided on fate of the number of planets in the solar system and so is the public reaction. It wont be easy for everyone to change the notion of  ‘ Nine planets’.  Is it necessary to bring these changes or astronomers are just bored is a debatable question.

    The resolution is to have 12 planets, which would mean addition of Ceres(Demoted from planet status about 100 years back), Charon (Pluto’s moon), and 2003 UB 313 (Farthest known object in Solar System) to the planet list .

    Then there are reports of Pluto being demoted to a dwarf planet and eventual possibility of Earth’s Moon being added to the list (long after you and I die), subjected to to survival of Earth-Moon system.

    Immediate question which comes to the mind is how frequently we will update this list and how strongly will this definitions stand over the centuries. Would something be retained as ‘XXX Classical Planets of XXXX World’ just as we have ‘ Seven Wonders of the Ancient World’ 

    Astronomers are divided on every aspect and what ‘may’ happen depends on who you ask! So I just stopped following the reports and look forward to the outcome of meeting at International Astronomical Union (IAU) at Czech capital of Prague. (Sounds so similar to my name!)

    I hope whatever they come up with, they come with a strong definition which will allow only addition of planets as and when they are found but not be dropped like Ceres only to be reconsidered as a planet after 100 years and now the shaky status of Pluto!

    Here is a FAQ on BBC website from where I stole this pic.