Last Saturday I was at Nehru Planetarium, Mumbai’s Sky Theatre listening to a talk by ISRO’s Dr Seetha. She was working with the Mars Orbiter Mission and from my understanding on the Mars Colour Camera project. She is also a principal investigator on the Astrosat Project.
Nehru Planetarium director Arvind Paranjpaye introduced Dr. Seetha who comes from a background in astronomy and who was working on the instrumentation of telescopes at the Kavalur Observatory. She moved to ISRO once it began the Planetary Sciences Division at PRL, Ahmedabad. She was among a group of scientists who moved from astronomy to space division within ISRO, a fact that was thus far unbeknownst to me.
She spoke of some of the challenges faced by the ISRO team whilst putting together the Mars mission – the usual facts about the need for the longer coast phase for the PSLV, the need for additional ocean based terminals provided for by the Shipping Corporation of India, the re-starting of engines and of-course the Mars Orbiter insertion. She spoke of how the once in 26 month opening comes for a mission to Mars works and also answered specific questions on spacecraft instrumentation redundancy and radiation and thermal shielding. There were a few request for apps. She said the spacecraft may have enough fuel now to do a 1 year mission even though though it was designed for a 6 month mission thanks to the inserted orbit. She asked the audience to follow the mission via Facebook and Twitter for more exciting picture releases and perhaps even a few science results from the other instruments.
I hope ISRO does send more of its scientists to talk to the public in gigs such as this. She said she understood that there was public was restless about the speed at which the pics were getting released via Facebook and Twitter but said that the speed was slow down a bit as the scientists get down to the science. In a private conversation with her, I got a chance to thank her for the better quality of pics that were now being made available. She said that better technology enabled this.