'Mangalyaan', India's First Satellite to Mars, enters the Orbit!
by Elizabeth Menon

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'Mangalyaan', India's First Satellite to Mars, enters the Orbit!

A proud moment for India, as its first satellite, 'Mangalyaan' enters the elliptical orbit of Mars at 0800 hours on 24 September, just as our brilliant Scientists at the ISRO at Sriharikota had predicted on 5 November 2013, at its launch! India is the first nation to enter the Mar's orbit in the first attempt, which even the US or Russia failed to do, and that too at a cost of 4.5 billion rupees, ten times less than that of the US! Now India has joined the elite club that has three other members, the US, Russia and Europe! Mangalyaan's entry into Mar's orbit is also an answer to all those criticised India's mission to Mars!

Congratulations to all our experts at the ISRO at Sriharikota and at Thumba! They had done our Nation proud by launching India's Maiden Unmanned Spacecraft, PSLV C-25, to the Mar's orbit on 5 November 2013, and now entering the orbit on 24 September, as predicted! The Launching Mission had successfully completed at 1438 hours (IST) on Tuesday 5 November and the spacecraft was programmed to be in the elliptical orbit around the earth for 20-25 days and then a nine month's journey to reach the Mar's elliptical orbit by 24 September 2014. The Scientists can be proud of the fact that their 'Maiden Mission' to Mars has reached its destination on time, which the other nations couldn't do! There are few Malayaalees among the experts involved in this Mission, including the Chairman at Sriharikotta ISRO, Mr K Radhakrishnan! Many parts of the Spacecraft were built at the Thumba ISRO in Trivandrum, even making it ten times cheaper to build than any other similar spacecrafts! Now the probe will start to measure the Deuterium (Isotope of Hydrogen), Hydrogen and Methane gases, and to study the structure of Mars.

It started with Homi Jehangir Bhabha, the 'Father of India's Nuclear Science Programme, who built the nuclear establishment near Bombay, when Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister. Nehru was well aware of the importance of nuclear science and Homi Bhabha was his answer. Peaceful application of nuclear science has always been the mission for great men like Nehru, Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai. Vikram Sarabhai started the 'Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedbad on 11 November 1947 and that was the beginning of India's development in research. His greatest achievement was establishing the 'Indian Space Research Organisation' (ISRO) and then with support from Homi Jehangir Bhabha and Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first rocket launching Space centre, was started in Thumba in Thiruvananthpuram, which is now known as the 'Vikram Sarabhai Space centre'(VSSC) and its maiden flight was on 21 November 1963 with a sodium vapour overload!

Dr Vikram Sarabhai, who is considered as the 'Father of India's Space Programme' started the Space Project for launching an indian Satellite, but his dream was only fulfilled after his untimely death in December 1971 at the age of 52 ((12 August 1919-30 December 1971). He died while he was in Thiruvanathapuram for the stone laying ceremony for the Thumba Railway station that was being built for the 'Thumba Equatorial Space Launching Station', the present,'Vikram Sarabhai Space centre'(VSSC). The ISRO project, 'Sriharikota Range' (SHAR), now known as the Satish Dhavan Space Centre'(SDSC), renamed in 2002 after ISRO's former Chairman, started functioning in October 1971 with India's first satellite launch from Indian soil, 'Rohini-125' – India's first satellite, 'Aryabhata' was launched from a Russian Cosmodrome in 1975!

Our Nuclear journey started in 1974, with the blessings of Mrs Indira Gandhi when 'Budha Smiled in Pokhran', and then 'Budhapournamy in 1998', which were followed by many such Missions. The nuclear test in 1998 was probably a protest against hypocrisy and ‘Nuclear discrimination’, and to restore our Nation’s pride. Dr Vikram Sarabhai's famous quote is still quite relevant, though we have achieved part of it: "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"!

Mangalyaan's presence in the Mar's orbit answers all those critics worldwide, who said that India should not be spending money on Spacecrafts and Nuclear Missions when we have millions of people below the poverty line! An average person on the street may not know much about nuclear science, satellite launches or test ban treaties: to him/her, these are symbols of national pride and achievement. But we believe that our Nation has to be in the frontline of technology and education for the betterment of our People and we have proved it now!

Congratulations to all the Scientists at Sriharikkota and Thumba!

© E Menon



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