Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

In defence of Mangalyaan: Why even developing countries like India need space research programmes

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.

Technology designed for outer space can help detect disease on planet Earth (8). For instance, Sepsis, a life-threatening condition in which the body is fighting a severe infection that has spread via the bloodstream leading to poor circulation and lack of blood perfusion of vital tissues and organs, is one of the most significant causes of premature death in the world. These deaths are thought to be preventable through improved diagnosis and reduced treatment delays. Researchers are now trialling the use of a simple breath test  developed by RAL Space to study gases in the Martian atmosphere. The device known as a Laser Isotope Ratiometer (LIR) can provide instant results helping doctors start treatment earlier which could reduce the number of sepsis linked deaths. Patients just breathe into a bag where the LIR uses laser beams to examine the gas samples. Now this is where gets a bit technical: the LIR then measures the concentration of two isotopes (or atoms) of carbon found in the sample. Carbon-13 and carbon-12 are exhaled as molecules or so called isotopologues 13CO2 and 12CO2. The onset of sepsis can change the ratio of 13CO2 and 12CO2 in the breath when the body's immune system responds to infection and thus changing it from its healthy levels. If the laser beam is adjusted to a certain frequency, the carbon dioxide molecules will absorb energy from it and become excited. This stops the light from transmitting through fully. The more 13CO2 or 12CO2 molecules are in the line of the laser beam, the less light will be transmitted through. The breath test  is non-invasive making it safe for frequent use by at risk patients and faster than regular blood tests which require an extended waiting period due to laboratory analysis.

What is the importance of space exploration?  GPS. Satellites gave us GPS. Weather predictions. WD-40. Space exploration gave us WD-40. MRI machines, CAT scan machines, artificial limbs, water-purification technology, efficient solar energy.. From Wikipedia: freeze-dried food, firefighting equipment, emergency "space blankets", DustBusterscochlear implantsLZR Racerswimsuits, and CMOS image sensors. As of 2016, NASA has published over 2,000 other spinoffs in the fields of computer technology, environment and agriculture, health and medicine, public safety, transportation, recreation, and industrial productivity and much, much, MUCH more.. There is a very long list of technological innovations and benefits that are “spin-offs” of space exploration.

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 :
ISRO wins Indira Gandhi peace Prize (2014) :
ISRO's Radhakrishnan in Nature journal's top ten list:

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.


Views: 7385

Replies to This Discussion

What others are saying about my essay:

Thanks for sharing Dr. Challa. Your essay offered insights I hadn't considered. Exploratory science right here on LinkedIn. Cool Stuff indeed.

Bijal (Bee) Hayes-Thakore

Product Marketing Manager - CPU Group, ARM Holdings Ltd | Board director - Planetary Society

Very well written Dr Challa. I also liked the artwork!


ISRO chosen for Indira Gandhi prize for peace, disarmament ( 2014 because of Mangalyaan)


India's Mars Orbiter programme team has won the in the science and engineering category from the based National Space Society (NSS), the society said.

"This award will be presented to an ISRO representative during the National Space Society's 2015 International Space Development Conference, the 34th ISDC, to be held in Toronto, Canada," a statement, issued by Washington said.

The conference will run form May 20-24.

According to the NSS, India's Mars Orbiter launched November 5, 2013 that went into Mars orbit September 24, 2014 achieved two significant mission firsts in terms of an Indian spacecraft that has gone into orbit around Mars on the very first try and that no other country has ever done this. Secondly, the spacecraft is in an elliptical orbit with a high apoapsis, and has a high resolution camera which is taking full-disk colour imagery of Mars.

Very few full disk images have ever been taken in the past, mostly on approach to the planet, as most imaging is done looking straight down in mapping mode.

These images will aid planetary scientists.

The Mars Orbiter programme team located in Bangalore is headed by Mylswamy Annadurai, the statement said.

The NSS is an independent non-profit educational membership organisation dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization.


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)

The mission is being awarded for putting a spacecraft into orbit around Mars on the very first try and for taking full disk images

The National Space Society based in Washington DC has chosen the ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) team, headed by M. Annadurai, for its 2015 Space Pioneer Award.

The society announced on Monday that a representative of the team would be presented the honour in the science and engineering category during its annual international conference in Toronto in May.

“This mission has achieved two significant mission firsts. An Indian spacecraft has gone into orbit around Mars on the very first try [on September 24, 2014]. No other country has ever done this. Two, very few full disk images have ever been taken in the past, mostly on approach to the planet, as most imaging is done looking straight down in mapping mode. These images will aid planetary scientists.”

The society describes itself as “an independent, educational, grassroots, non-profit organisation dedicated to the creation of a space-faring civilisation.”


Space Technology Can Help Sustain Earth

Satellite imagery and communication are powerful aids in confronting humanitarian and environmental issues


Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has completed another milestone by successfully lifting the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV-F05 rocket from Sriharikota on September 8. Scientists at the Indian space agency used indigenous cryogenic upper stage engine to successfully locate the heavy weather satellite INSAT-3DR  weighing 2800 kg into the orbit. The satellite will enhance the accuracy of weather prediction giving the necessary edge in international space commerce in future.

The successful launch of over two-tonne satellite has put India in the elite league of nations able to lift up such heavy satellites in the geostationary orbit. Only five other nations — US, Russia, France, Japan and China, have the cryogenic engine technology to lift such heavy satellites.

Apparently, the successful launch of India’s weather observatory has increased the reputation of Indian space agency ISRO in the international satellite launch market worth $300 billion. After the success of missions like Mangalyaan that won the Space Pioneer award 2015 and got featured in Times Magazine, and Chandrayaan, foreign agencies have started seeking help of ISRO for their satellite launches. ISRO has launched 51 foreign satellites till date.

Moreover, two more GSLV-MkII missions will be completed this year. In addition, ISRO is developing C-25 engine which will twice powerful than the current version having the capability to lift satellite weighing over 4,000kg.

Indian Scientists Who Made Mars Orbiter Mission Possible


ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan on Monday backed Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s proposal to use the euphoria created by the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) to ignite young minds and encourage students to take to science.

The Government of Kerala will team up with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to promote science education and research among students. ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan on Monday backed Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s proposal to use the euphoria created by the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) to ignite young minds and encourage students to take to science.


U.S. Space Society to honour Mars Orbiter team

The mission is being awarded for putting a spacecraft into orbit around Mars on the very first try and for taking full disk images

The National Space Society based in Washington DC has chosen the ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) team, headed by M. Annadurai, for its 2015 Space Pioneer Award.

The society announced on Monday that a representative of the team would be presented the honour in the science and engineering category during its annual international conference in Toronto in May.

“This mission has achieved two significant mission firsts. An Indian spacecraft has gone into orbit around Mars on the very first try [on September 24, 2014]. No other country has ever done this. Two, very few full disk images have ever been taken in the past, mostly on approach to the planet, as most imaging is done looking straight down in mapping mode. These images will aid planetary scientists.”

The society describes itself as “an independent, educational, grassroots, non-profit organisation dedicated to the creation of a space-faring civilisation.”
The Indian Mars Mission is a great example of 'frugal engineering' that is ISRO's hallmark of innovation. Many media agencies have covered the Indian Mars Mission launch and orbit insertion milestone amongst criticisms citing the widespread poverty and food security. Here's why that argument is bunk.!


Isro's longest launch got thrust from stop and start of engine

When India's PSLV-C35, carrying eight satellites, placed weather satellite Scatsat-1 in the polar synchronous orbit17 minutes after lift-off fromSriharikota, both the satellite and the rocket began to circle the earth.

About 66 minutes later, the rocket's fourth-stage engine was reignited and shut down for about 20 seconds, as a preparation to switching orbits and launching the rest of the satellites. The shutdown gave the necessary thrust for the rocket to manoeuvre further and change orbits - from polar sun synchronous to polar orbit. The rocket was coasting at a speed of about 27,000km per hour.

The engine was restarted and cut off for 20 seconds, about 45 minutes after it coasted for the second time during its mission. A minute later, seven other satellites were placed in orbit one after the other within 3.45 minutes.

"PSLV launches usually last 20 to 25 minutes. But this launch lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours. It was almost like having two separate launches," said B Jayakumar, mission director.

Very few space-faring countries have achieved this feat. European Space Agency's Vega rocket recently accomplished a twin-orbit manoeuvre.

While Isro tested the restart and shutdown of its fourth-stage engine in two previous PSLV launches, the launch on Monday was still complex at various levels - mission planning and execution, power management and thermal management. "One side of the rocket was getting hot, as it was facing the sun while the other side was using heat to move," Jayakumar said. He added that PSLV now has the flexibility to suit customers' demands.

Every body in the solar system travels a curve rather than a straight line. To be specific, every body has an orbit that is a circle, ellipse, parabola, or hyperbola.

The Mars Orbiter Mission is flying the simplest and cheapest path to Mars. It is using what is called a Hohmann transfer. Hohmann transfers utilize the least propellant.

Essentially, what happens is the spacecraft does a powerful burn at perigee in Earth orbit. This change in velocity will create a new apogee, on the opposite side of the sun from the Earth. In this case, that apogee is at or beyond the orbit of Mars. So, the burn is accomplishing two things - it is putting the spacecraft on a hyperbolic course out of Earth orbit and acting as a Hohmann transfer for its solar orbit.

If Mars were not there, the spacecraft would come back to Earth's orbit. But when it gets near Mars, it will enter the sphere of influence of Mars - meaning Mars will have greater gravitational influence on the spacecraft than the Earth or Sun does. If the velocity of the spacecraft is right, it will be captured by Mars and enter orbit about Mars. If the spacecraft is moving too quickly it will just have its path bent by Mars. A deceleration burn will likely be done to ensure capture at the right altitude.

If the Hohmann transfer was done correctly, the burn was the minimum necessary to get the spacecraft to Mars and would result in the spacecraft being near its lowest velocity when it reaches Mars.


Reasons for low cost of Mangalyaan: 

So how has India done it? For sure, people costs are less in this populous nation, and the scientists and engineers working on any space mission are always the largest part of the ticket price.

Home-grown components and technologies have also been prioritised over expensive foreign imports.

But, in addition, India has been careful to do things simply.

They've kept it small. The payload weighs only about 15kg. Compare that with the complexity in the payload in Maven and that will explain a lot about the cost.

Of course, that reduced complexity suggests it won't be as scientifically capable, but India has been smart in targeting some really important areas that will complement what others are doing."

Mangalyaan has gone equipped with an instrument that will try to measure methane in the atmosphere.

This is one of the hottest topics in Mars research right now, following previous, tantalising observations of the gas.

Earth's atmosphere contains billions of tonnes of methane, the vast majority of it coming from microbes, such as the organisms found in the digestive tracts of animals.

The speculation has been that some methane-producing bugs, or methanogens, could perhaps exist on Mars if they lived underground, away from the planet's harsh surface conditions.

So, even though Mangalyaan has a small payload, it will actually address some of the biggest questions at the Red Planet.

Western scientists are excited also to have the Indian probe on station.

Its measurements of other atmospheric components will dovetail very nicely with Maven and the observations being made by Europe's Mars Express. "It means we'll be getting three-point measurements, which is tremendous.

This will enable researchers to better understand how the planet lost the bulk of its atmosphere billions of years ago, and determine what sort of climate it could once have had, and whether or not it was conducive to life.

There's an assumption among many that space activity is somehow a plaything best left to wealthy industrial countries; that it can have no value to developing nations.

The money would be better spent on healthcare and improved sanitation, so the argument goes.

But what this position often overlooks is that investment in science and technology builds capability and capacity, and develops the sort of people who benefit the economy and society more widely.

Space activity is also a wealth generator. Some of the stuff we do up there pays for stuff down here.

The industrialised nations know it; that's one of the reasons they invest so heavily in space activity.

Consider just the UK. It has dramatically increased its spending on space in recent years.

The government has even identified satellites as being one of the "eight great technologies" that can help rebalance the UK economy and drive it forward.

India wants a part of this action, too, and in Mangalyaan and its other satellite and rocket programmes, the nation is putting itself into a strong position in international markets for space products and services.

Space Radiation Threat to Astronauts Explained (Infographic)


(my reply to another discussion on the topic)

From asteroid mining to low or zero gravity manufacturing, there is a lot to gain. If we survive long enough we may even figure out a practical way to live permanently in space or even terraform dead worlds into habitable worlds.


When there are so many problems here on earth, should so much money be spent on manned space exploration?


A New Way to Reach Mars Safely, Anytime and on the Cheap

Ballistic capture, a low-energy method that has coasted spacecraft into lunar orbit, could help humanity visit the Red Planet much more often
ballistic capture technique

3 Indian women lead for India’s Mars Orbiter Mission

In the year 2013, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission became the first Mars orbit mission, which successfully reached the orbit in its first attempt. The better news is, three Indian women were leading the mission.

Let’s get familiar with the 3 legends of India.

November 5, 2013 is a remarkable day in Indian space history because in this date, India’s Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the Mars Orbiter Mission, which is more popularly known as Mangalyaan in India. The better news is three Indian women scientists were working in the mission. In an interview, Nandini HAarinath, the Project manager, Mission Design and Deputy Operations Director, Mars Orbiter Mission said, “Every launch gives me butterflies in the stomach and MArs Orbiter Mission was exceptionally a special one.”

In the same interview Seetha Somasundaram, the Program Director of the ISRO Space Science Program Office, talked about another historical day in the history of ISRO – September 24, 2014, the grand day on which the Mangalyaan mission successfully entered into the Mars orbit. Ms. Seetha said, “We will never forget it in all our lives. When we came to know about it, those were probably the sweetest words we heard on that day.”

Another women scientist and engineer of ISRO who is leading Mars Orbiter mission is Ms. Minal Rohit, who said, “I always wanted to be one of those scientists in that white garment, finding new ways to show the world.”

“I don’t think I ever thought I would be working in ISRO Satellite Centre. If you are doing mission operations, you really don’t need to watch a science fiction movie. We see that excitement in our day-to-day lives,” says Nandini Harinath, Project Manager, Mission Design and Deputy Operations Director, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission.

The three great ladies also shared their experience and long night planning that they had to do in order to successfully launch the mission. The short film clearly reveals everything about Mangalyaan mission.

Mars was habitable longer, more recently than thought
Warmer, wetter conditions lasted until 3.5 billion years ago

India’s Mars Mission Cue For Third World

Why do satellites and rockets fail?
We've been walking on two limbs for about four million years, and yet we still slip, trip, and fall occasionally.

Rockets are complex pieces of equipment that involve great forces and operate in extreme and wide-ranging environments. They are thus exposed to great stress. They have hundreds of thousands of components, any of which could have manufacturing defects invisible to the eye. They are worked upon by hundreds of individuals, any of which could make a mistake.

The reason failures don't happen more often is that we design the rockets to be tolerant of multiple failures and we inspect the hell out of them. But sometimes a series of mistakes and/or failures happen and a failure chain develops that has catastrophic effects.
You know how people say something "isn't rocket science" to mean it's not that difficult? Well, launching a rocket is rocket science.

You are trying to execute a controlled detonation of what is effectively a very large bomb. The tolerances are tight by necessity of both physics and economics so there isn't room for comfortable engineering safety margins. A launch is a one shot deal, there is very little time to recover from any kind of mistake or equipment failure, the bomb is going to keep exploding no matter what you do.

Cracked seal? BOOM!
Stuck solenoid? BOOM!
Guidance computer glitch? BOOM!
Flaw in the casting of your solid rocket fuel? BOOM!

There are a whole lot of ways to get things wrong, and very few ways to get them right.

Physicist Larry Smarr was recently named winner of the first 2014 Golden Goose award, which honors U.S. federally funded research that has impacted society, despite seeming to lack practical applications when it was conducted. “We try to educate people about the way that science builds upon itself and goes in unexpected directions,” says Barry Toiv, spokesman for the Association of American Universities, one of the founding organizations of the awards. ”Research that may seem odd or not to have any particular value to society may turn out to have enormous value for reasons that would have been impossible to predict.”
The Golden Goose awards were named to contrast with the Golden Fleece awards, which the late Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin used to give out to lambaste what he considered wasteful spending. Although the awards garnered attention, they often backfired. . One famous example was a USDA-funded study by Edward F. Knipling on the sex life of the screwworm, which turned out to be a deadly parasite of cattle. Using the research to eliminate screwworms from livestock in the southern U.S. ended up saving the cattle industry around $20 billion dollars, leading Proxmire to apologize to Knipling for deriding his work.

But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…
- J F Kennedy

It is important that research is being done correctly rather than perceived value. In the 1970-1980s, Proxmire awarded the Golden Fleece Award to research he thought was a waste of taxpayers' money. One example of research he targeted was research done on the sex life of the screw worm.

This maggot caused the poultry and livestock industry billions of dollars but the quarter-a-million dollars research revealed that only virgin females mate while males can mate multiple times. By creating sterile male larvae and releasing them into the wold, the USDA managed to eradicate the pest.

Anticipating value and savings is difficult, if not impossible. It's the same with the tech industry. If anyone could predict, with certainty, the next big thing, they would be billionaires. It's the same with scientific research. In terms of financial reward, we can't tell who is going to be the big winner or loser.

If anyone decides to go in this direction, I think it should be a positive one. Show how these "frivolous" projects have paid off big and benefited tax payers. There are lots of scientists doing bad science out there. But just because the research seems silly doesn't mean it's bad science. That is what the AIR tries to show.

I will admit to being very cynical. I don't think much can be done to change the views of the anti-science crowd. No argument, no matter how valid or well-reasoned, will sway a law-maker who wants to cut funding to the sciences.


© 2024   Created by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service