Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
When ISRO ( Indian Space Research Organization) launched its Mars orbiter mission, this week, it caught the imagination of the whole world. Though India says its Mars mission is the cheapest inter-planetary mission ever to have been undertaken in half a century of space exploration, some are questioning its scientific purpose. There are a few critics too who say when so many poor are starving in a developing country like India, spending Rupees 450 crores on it is not correct. India's space programme spends $1.1bn annually, while the Mars mission alone would take up $74m. Critics say there are about 350 million people in the country who live on less than $2 a day. These skeptics say the space research is taking away the money from the development programmes. I feel this is a short sighted view. I have written on this earlier too (ref 1, 2). Again I want to write on this to remove these misconceptions and why India needs these space research programmes.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself dismissed criticism saying: "Questions are sometimes asked about whether a poor country like India can afford a space programme and whether the funds spent, albeit modest, could be better utilised elsewhere," he said in a speech last year. "This misses the point that a nation's state of development is finally a product of its technological powers." So India's space programme is ultimately intended as a capability demonstration. It is designed to put India 'out there' with other space-faring nations, and this is reflective of Indian ambitions to increase its international profile more generally. If we can't dare to dream big it would leave us as hewers of wood and drawers of water! India is today too big to be just living on the fringes of high technology.
My art work based on this very theme " Spaceman Vs Boxmen"
(In this space age, where new thoughts & actions of some people are taking the human kind towards development & progress, others are refusing to come out of the boxes they live in even though the environment they are in is hindering the free, forward movement.
“If India were to feed its masses before doing anything else, not one bit of science will be done in the country. When the rest of the world is moving forward, we will end up having a society which is not only hungry but also scientifically lagging.”
And there is international support too: "To think that India is going to the moon and Mars because of some cynical ploy to engage in one-upmanship with the Chinese is wrong," said John Sheldon, a US national security analyst and founder of strategy firm The Torridon Group. "For every rupee invested, there is a return for regular Indian people in terms of what that programme provides," he told the Washington Post. Then read what an article of BBC says here:
The same sentiment is echoed by ISRO Chairman Dr. Radhakrishnan."Space is one area right from the beginning that has been contributing to the development process of the country," he said, referring to the beneficial contribution of weather forecasting on farmers of the country. Isro's main objective is not to find aliens but to get “weather report to farmers, natural disaster warnings and free online education to remote locations.”
However, India does appear to be conscious of its neighbours and the strategic implications of being ahead in space technology. "India doesn't live in a benign neighbourhood," said Rajeshwari Rajagopalan, a space security expert at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, according to the Wall Street Journal. According to her, India is focused on peaceful use of outer space, but since China successfully tested an anti-satellite missile in 2007, there has been a "sort of arms race". We need space programme and satellites to defend our country too! In August this year, India successfully launched its first dedicated military satellite for naval intelligence gathering in the backdrop of concerns about Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean. "India's achievements in space technology are contributing to its missile technology, including the Agni-V."
ISRO has very humble origins. In fact both Brazil and India started their space research at the same time. Both had very little money. While Brazil spent all its money on constructing big buildings, Indian scientists worked from old make shift buildings and spent the little money they had on building rockets. In 1963 ISRO launched its first rocket from Thumba Equatorial Launching Station. The station had a single launch pad in the midst of coconut plantations. A local Catholic Church the St Mary Magadelene's Church served as the main office for the scientists. The bishop's house was converted into a workshop. A Cattle shed became the laboratory in which young Indian scientists like Abdul Kalam Azad worked and the rocket was transported to lift-off pad ON A BICYCLE. The second rocket, which was launched sometime later, was a little bigger and heavier and it was transported in a bullock cart for the lift off. Over the next 12 years, India built and launched more than 350 sound rockets. India's first rocket was transported on a bicycle and satellite APPLE in a bullock cart (4)! Now look where Brazil is and where India is! ISRO knows the value of money and how to spend it!
According to ISRO the aim of the mission is 85% tech demonstration and 15% scientific quest ( studying the whole planet, unlike the US mission, and finding methane and water on Mars). India's 1,350kg (2,976lb) robotic satellite which is undertaking the 10-month-long, over 200-million-kilometre journey to Mars is equipped with five instruments.
They include a sensor to track methane or marsh gas - a possible sign of life - on Mars, a colour camera for taking pictures, and a thermal imaging spectrometer to map the surface and mineral wealth of the planet. The mission will also analyse the thin Martian atmosphere.
This is to demonstrate India's interplanetary mission capabilities to retain its place in the spacefarer's club.
Spending 450 crore rupees on Mangalyaan is a small sum for national pride. According to ISRO: You never know if we may find something that is worth much more than Rs. 450 crore figure. People who ask what ISRO is going to find would understand that not finding something is also a finding, a discovery that something is not there. So in science even a failure will become a source of valuable knowledge! Remember the words of Edison of light blub fame? When Edison was asked what he had achieved by failing 999 times and only succeeding the 1000th time, he replied: I realized how you cannot make a bulb in 999ways. That is the spirit of science. But aren't we spending more on sports and movies? Aren't politians and beaurocrats wasting more public money on their personal quests? Aren't the rich wasting so much money on celebrations and parties? Each and every project the Indian government under takes is wasting large sums of money because of corruption and mismanagement. I can give several other examples which waste lots of money like useless Diwali crackers which just go up in smoke. I think this money spent on space research is an useful expenditure on a scientific project. Moreover, ISRO earns money on its own by launching satellites from other countries while saving money by sending our own satellites through our own launch vehicles. If we think about only feeding the poor - which of course is important - we will never progress in the scientific field which is also important to develop and feed the poor through Agricultural development, good storage and nutritional feeding of the poor! Satellite communications that can save lives can never be realized! This is spending peanuts to gain scientific knowledge and not a waste! If the Mars mission succeeds, it will be a big morale booster for India.
Earlier missions and previous ground based calculations have found methane in Martian atmosphere, but none have been able to conclude if they definitely indicated any life. This is because methane could be of geological as well as biological origin. Methane is interesting because most of it in our atmosphere is produced by methanogenic Archaea (or microbes); in other words, it is a signal of life. So if we find out the source, we might have detected life on Mars if it is biological in origin. Whatever the source, finding the methane - which one of the five scientific instruments on board the Mars orbiter would try - would add considerably to research on the red planet. The Lyman alpha photometer would be looking for abundance of deuterium and hydrogen in the Martian upper atmosphere, which are indicators of early existence of water. This will allow the amount of water loss to outer space to be estimated, thus revealing an important aspect of the history of water on the planet. Given that all life as we know it requires liquid water this will be another datapoint in the search for life, as well as revealing more about the climate history of the planet.
Mangalyaan launch proves the creative blend of Indian scientific community and its scientific and technological capabilities. This has been proved when it is noted that this mission was made possible within 15 months of government approval and on a meager budget of just Rs. 450 crore. It is important to note that the Mars probe had to be launched using modified PSLV launch vehicle instead of GSLV rocket which demonstrates ISRO's ability to make do with available technology. Only when you technologically demonstrate your capabilities, you will get respect and noticed and grab a good space market. This aspect can be commercially exploited on a large scale. It can secure satellite launch contracts from several countries including the most developed ones which makes ISRO self-funding as well as bringing lots of money to India. It will help create a market for Indian space products. This in turn would lead to create lots of jobs in the tech front. The excellent record of ISRO is a great morale booster for scientists and other skilled people of India. A successful or even attempted project will improve the brand image of not only ISRO but also that of India.
Critics had put forth a similar argument that the project was a waste of public money when India was preparing for Chandrayaan-1 too. But India's moon mission alone found moisture in moon's polar region which even men who walked on moon couldn't!
This mission to Mars is a historical necessity. After having helped find water on the moon through Chandrayaan-1, looking for a sign of life on Mars is s natural progression. Not only would a successful mission be a towering achievement, it will also provide vital technological know-how that should aid India's next planned mission: a robotic voyage to the moon. ISRO argues that the goals for its Mars mission are mostly technological, showing that they have the know-how to design and navigate a deep-space probe. No matter how the probe fares from here, what India learns from its Mars mission should add to the capabilities of their next attempt to reach the moon, Chandrayaan-2. The nation's next lunar project is slated to be the first fully robotic mission to bundle an orbiter, a lander and a rover into a single launch, all developed by India. ISRO has said that the craft will test out novel technologies and science instruments.
How will this project help with the future moon mission? One of the trickiest phases in any interplanetary trek is launching and then perfecting orbital trajectories between Earth and your destination. India's Mars mission offers a chance to refine their techniques for climbing out of Earth orbit and heading deeper into space. Mars Orbitor is going to be orbiting the Earth for some extended period of time, checking the spacecraft out before they commit to injecting it on a Mars trajectory. One of the issues there is the accuracy of their navigation and their ability to get it on the right trajectory. With lessons learned from this project, plus another attempt in December at flying the heavy-lift rocket that will eventually launch the moon probe, India should be better placed for success when Chandrayaan-2 is ready for take-off. Any time you fly a planetary mission you are going to learn something, like how to improvise when things don't go as planned.This Mars mission will certainly help with that.
Taking Mangalyaan to the Martian orbit overcoming several difficulties, gives lots of confidence to the scientists. The success of this project would place ISRO and India in a higher orbit with regard to International space programmes.
The spin-off of this project would be useful in the future for Indian communication satellites.
Learning to do things with minimum resources, fuel ( by using a method called Hohmann Transfer Orbit which uses least amount of fuel possible. In this method, the spacecraft leaves Earth in a direction tangential to its orbit, and will encounter Mars at a tangent in Sep, 2014 ) and money is important for a developing country like India. ISRO had employed a complex design to take the Orbitor from Earth to Mars without spending too much energy and money ( according to one calculation just Rs. 12/km and another one says just Rs. 7/km all the way to Mars!). Only 21 out of 51 missions by other countries have been successful so far. This shows how complex and difficult the mission is. Getting the orbiter to go around Mars itself would be a mark of success!
Mars mission is a major technological challenge - but like Chandrayaan -1, it has excited the younger generation,catching their imagination which is being fed day in and day out with only news from sports, movies and music, and ignite the young minds and give them an electric alternative to think about and choose another exciting career. It will also give a boost to scientific research in India.
There are women scientists working at ISRO executing key manoeuvres at the mission control center. Just knowing this is enough to inspire women to get into key scientific areas of research and engineering.
The benefits of space research are being enjoyed in every sphere of life today. Examples: Saving lives during cyclones . In October, when cyclone Phailin headed for the south-eastern and eastern states, India could track it precisely, and one million people were evacuated at the right time. The investment made in satellite programmes over the years made the difference. India's space programme has brought mobile phone access even to the interiors of country, which revolutionised the channels available for farmers to sell their produce and for fishermen in isolated villages to get the best price.
Satellite Communication (Satcom) technology of ISRO offers the unique capability of simultaneously reaching out to very large numbers spread over large distances even in the most remote corners of the country. The hallmark of Indian Space Programme has been the application oriented efforts and the benefits that have accrued to the country. In the past two and a half decades Indian National Satellite (INSAT) system have revolutionized the country’s telecommunications, TV broadcasting, DTH services, business communications, rural area connectivity, Tele-education, Tele-medicine, Village Resource Centres, Search and Rescue operations and Emergency Communications (ref 3).
Remote sensing has enabled mapping, studying, monitoring and management of various resources like agriculture, forestry, geology, water, ocean etc. It has further enabled monitoring of environment and thereby helping in conservation. In the last four decades it has grown as a major tool for collecting information on almost every aspect on the earth. With the availability of very high spatial resolution satellites in the recent years, the applications have multiplied. In India remote sensing has been used for various applications during the last four decades and has contributed significantly towards development (3).
The Disaster Management Support (DMS) Programme of ISRO, provides timely support and services from aero-space systems, both imaging and communications, towards efficient management of disasters in the country. The DMS programme addresses disasters such as flood, cyclone, drought, forest fire, landslide and Earthquake. These include creation of digital data base for facilitating hazard zonation, damage assessment, etc., monitoring of major natural disasters using satellite and aerial data; development of appropriate techniques and tools for decision support, establishing satellite based reliable communication network, deployment of emergency communication equipments and R&D towards early warning of disasters (3).
Other services of ISRO are Telemedicine Programme (an innovative process of synergising benefits of Satellite communication technology and information technology with Biomedical Engineering and Medical Sciences to deliver the health care services to the remote, distant and under served regions of the country), village resource centers ( to provide the space technology enabled services directly to the rural population), and tele-education.
The future of Mankind’s survival lies beyond this insignificant ball of dust. Yes, we need to study other planets to both improve the conditions here on Earth, protect ourselves from what made Mars and other planets inhospitable if we don't find life on them and to make them hospitable so that in future if we have to travel to other planets for various reasons we can do it with ease.
The more sober of us see Mars as the most likely site in our solar system for a second origin of life. Discovering even microbes there could revolutionize biology, challenge some religious beliefs and point to an answer to that great question “Are we alone?” (5)
In science, nothing is a waste. People -laymen would be an appropriate word here - say space science is waste. It is just ignorance to think so. The technology used in space science is being used now in medical field too to save money and lives! And this is a fact. It is also being used to improve infrastructure and technologies used in industries. Are we not using satellites for communications and educational purposes? Radio-technology used in radio telescopes is now being used in mobile phones improving the communication systems around the world! So according to scientists space science is not a waste. (ref 2)
Science is knowledge. It can be used one way or the other and nothing in science is ever going to be a waste. Advancements in one field often lead to developments in very different areas.
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 mankind is facing today and solve them effectively. That is what exactly ISRO is doing today.
"What will you do by going to a moon? What is the use of finding that moon is a barren land?" Somebody asked me this Q. And my reply is: try to understand this ... Apart from gaining knowledge about the moon ... how the technology used in space science is being used now in medical field...
In fact, our former president, who is a scientist at Defence Research and Development Organization, Mr. APJ Abdul Kalam , collaborated with Care foundation doctors and developed a cost-effective stent using space technology. He also helped Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences doctors in developing low-weight ortho calipers - prosthetic legs for polio-effected patients and amputees - using space age materials. Space science is not at all a waste!
Scientists at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, India's premier rocket lab recently manufactured the world's lightest material called silica aerogel or 'blue air.' Silica Aerogel is the lightest synthetic material ever made by man.This material, scientists say, has excellent thermal resistance and if used as a filler in soldiers' uniforms it can possibly help save many lives at the Siachen glacier. The material has uses both in space and on Earth. So light weight that it can be delicately placed on a flower head, ISRO has made the world's lightest known material, sometimes also called 'frozen smoke.' Scientists hope it can be used to insulate rocket engines (7). But, the uses extended beyond rocket insulations. It has applications for thermal jacket, foot insoles, as well as for window glazing. It is extremely useful for people working in very cold environments, in a very strategic way .
Like one science enthusiast says: "We bear witness to the astonishing capacities for scientific knowledge to aid us in transcending our seeming boundaries, to realise they're not really boundaries. It's a great thing. Let's celebrate that." So instead of criticizing it, let us support science - especially space science, the scientific community and celebrate their achievements and spirit.
Some Good News: 2nd Dcember, 2013: Mangalyaan finally left the Earth's orbit and started its long journey towards the Mars. India’s spacecraft to Mars has bid adieu to its Earth-bound orbit and is cruising in its sun-centric orbit. In a remarkably successful execution of a complex manoeuvre, ISRO fired the propulsion system on board the spacecraft for a prolonged duration of 23 minutes from 0049 hours on Sunday. In space parlance, the manoeuvre is called Trans-Mars Injection (TMI). ISRO called it “the mother of all slingshots.” Well done ISRO!
Sci-Art Lab Wishes the spacecraft of MOM a Bon Voyage through space....
24th Sept., 2014 ... and ISRO and India have created history by becoming the first space research organization and country to successfully get a spacecraft into the Martian orbit on their maiden attempt! Indian Space Research Organisation's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft started orbiting the red planet at 7.47am, but it was only 12 minutes later —because of a time delay in radio signals travelling the 680 million km -- that scientists at Isro Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network in Bangalore, could erupt in joy as Prime Minister Narendra Modi stood a happy witness. We have done it!
Very proud of you scientists at ISRO!
I completely trusted you all the while and wrote this article when MOM was first launched supporting you and following you. Now see what happened! I have been proved right till now and will be proved right in the future too. Scientists at ISRO will never let us down because they are made of stuff others can only dream of! They are in great demand now and NASA and Chinese space scientists want to work in collaboration with ISRO now. ISRO and NASA set up a joint Mars working group too to enhance cooperation between India and the US in explorations of the red planet. This success must now silence the critics of MOM.
The low cost of this mission also can be attributed to technologies like that used on the cryogenic engine and communication systems were produced by indigenous companies working with ISRO, but developed at a fraction of the cost charged by Western companies and other scientists also attribute lower costs to the dedication of Indian scientists who worked overtime at comparatively low salaries to get Mangalayaan going.
The biggest achievement of the odyssey is India's demonstration of mastery over making the spacecraft 'think and act' on its own! (6) The 'electronic brain' that helped the MOM to journey for more than 689 km - correcting altitudes and positioning its antenna constantly toward the Earth for communication and its solar panels toward the Sun to generate power - is very vital for the success of the spaceship. It is this brain that stored commands from ISRO in Bangalore 10 days in advance and carried them out to fire its engine to enter Martian orbit. All through its journey MOM has controlled its temperature and cruised in the direction of Mars with very little prodding from Earth. Some 150 automated thermo-controllers kept the temperature steady. While speeding at more than 82,000 kmph. it never lost direction, thanks to the star-gazing equipment on board which looked at constellations of 6-10 stars every microsecond and compare them with preloaded patterns. MOM continuously matched the patterns and in relation to the constallations, determined its position and direction. Scientists call it autonomy. Autonomy can deliver things stranger than we think. And it can be used here on Earth to benefit humanity! Need I say more?
6. TOI, 25th Sept, 2014.
Time Magazine picks Mangalyaan for best inventions of 2014 : http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/mangalyaan-amon...
ISRO wins Indira Gandhi peace Prize (2014) : http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/isro-chosen-for-indira-gandhi...
ISRO's Radhakrishnan in Nature journal's top ten list: http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/isros-radhakrishnan-in-nat...
India's Mars Orbiter team wins 2015 Space Pioneer Award
The award was won in the science and engineering category from the US based National Space Society (NSS)
U.S. Space Society to honour Mars Orbiter team
21st Sept., 2015
As it prepares to celebrate the first anniversary of its spacecraft's tryst with Mars, ISRO today said the mission to the Red Planet will last for "many years" as there is not much of a "problem" and they have not had any failures so far.
"Mars (mission) is expected to last for many years now, because it has gone through solar conjunction also; so we don't see much of a problem," ISRO Chairman AS Kiran Kumar told reporters today.
Space Programme Has Benefited Country: ISRO Chief
The success of the Indian space programme has trickled down to society and led to direct economic and other benefits, ISRO chairman S Radhakrishnan on Saturday said.
"The Indian space programme has touched everything, from agriculture to weather (forecast). Indian space applications have trickled down to society. They have brought economic benefits," Radhakrishnan said.
He was speaking at the 'India on Saturday' Conclave's panel discussion on 'Rockets vs Rotis - What to do First: Feed the hungry or reach the Moon', along with Jean-Yves Le Gall, the President of the National Space Agency of France.
Radhakrishnan said that despite budgetary constraints, the impact of India's space programme has been phenomenal.
Further, defending the spending on the Mars Orbiter Mission (MoM), Radhakrishnan said that such projects had ignited the intellectual hunger and attracted the youth and students to be part of the Indian space programme.
He added that the MoM is 21.5 million kilometres from earth, in good health and on its course.
"It takes 72 minutes for any signal to reach the MoM," Radhakrishnan added.
Can't find another person who is as passionate about science as you are , Krishna. And tell the world about it!
What a great combination!
“For, in the final analysis, the thing in this world which is of most supreme importance, indeed the thing which is of most practical value to the race, is not, after all, useful discovery or invention, but that which lies far back of them, namely, “the way men think” - the kind of conceptions which they have about the world in which they live and their own relations to it. It is their expanding of the mind of man, this clarifying of his conceptions through the discovery of truth which is the immediate object of all studies in the field of pure science. Behind that object, however, is the conviction that human life will ultimately be enriched by every increase in man’s knowledge of the way in which nature works, since obviously the first step in the beneficent control of nature is a thorough understanding of her.”
“For when I look over my thirty years of scientific effort I can find no industry which has grown out of my researches, nor evan any which have been very immediately benefited by them.”
Scientists make a Mini Mars to mimic Red Planet dust
Martian dust can wreak havoc with sensitive equipment, so researchers have created a chamber that lets them simulate the Martian surface -- dust and all -- before that equipment heads to the Red Planet.
Warp Drive Research Key to Interstellar Travel
NASA May Put a Greenhouse on the Red Planet
Mustardlike plants could be the first Earthlings to call Mars home if NASA decides to let them hitch a ride on the next rover
Plans to use the technology to develop climate change resistant plants
The technology could also provide food security in isolated or extreme environments.
This would help scientists understand better how space agriculture could work
Only one unmanned Chandrayaan mission by ISRO accomplished much more than all the 15 Apollo missions combined.
Also ISRO can send a kilogram into space for as low as $2000, compared to $40,000 by NASA.
Some more facts to feel proud of ISRO:
ISRO's (Indian space research organization) last 40 years expenditure is not even half of NASA's single year budget. ISRO's Chandrayaan - 1 costed 373 crores (approx) which is almost 9 times less than what NASA spent on a similar exploration.
ISRO's budget is only 0.34 per cent of the central government expenditure at present and 0.08 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
IRNSS or Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System is one of the few navigation systems in the world and will provide an alternative to systems like the GPS (global positioning system) owned by the US, for navigation in and around India.
Indian Remote Sensing satellites (IRS) are a series of earth observation satellites, built, launched and maintained by ISRO.Even NASA envies the quality of information provided by IRS, which are touted to be the best in the world.
Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology is one of its kind college which prepares rocket scientists exclusively for ISRO. Education is completely free at IIST.
Despite having only 3% of budgetary allowance comapred to NASA, ISRO is trying to probe Sun, Venus, Mars , near earth objects like asteroids and also launch the first Indian manned flight, all before 2020.
In space science, Failure Is Always An Option:
MOM taught us much: ISRO chief
People from different walks of life, too, felt that they were contributors to the mission at a different level, he said.
To help research
Explaining that the purpose of India was not just to show the outer world its space capabilities, Dr. Radhakrishnan said the Mission was actually for helping people in the modern era and open doors for newer research activities.
He said it was the successful space missions pioneered by the country that equipped it to predict natural calamities on time.
Referring to some of the most important techniques used to reap success in the Mars mission, Dr. Radhakrishnan said the smart satellites used by the country in the project could set new heights in the area.
“It automatically took over the control of the command systems when possibilities of timely human interventions were minimal at a very long distance. The technology would be useful for the country in several other developing areas,” he said