NISAR will look at the Antarctic

Alexandra Witze writes for Nature about a decision relating to NASA and ISRO joint mission called NASA ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) decision to point at the Antarctic rather than the Arctic.

The decision is based on the fact that the Europe’s Sentinel satellite is covering the Arctic region. Also, SAR satellites are built such that they point either to the North or the South pole. Hence a call was taken on which Pole the NISAR would be facing.

Khagol Mandal

The Wire has a nice write-up about Khagol Mandal.

I grew up in Mumbai and had heard of Khagol Mandal on my visits to Nehru Planetarium but never had the courage to ask my Dad to go for one of their all night camp until I was in college. I attended a few of their talks and Wednesday meetings.

However, given that the Internet was full of American websites I too felt the need for splitting the clubs along the science and engineering line. Since, I was more interested in the science vs engineering divide, I started SEDS India in 2004.

Reading the article, I wonder how different life would have been had I started a Rocketry Hub in Khagol Mandal rather than wasting precious time setting up SEDS India.

Watch “Where in the world is it easiest to get rich? | Harald Eia | TEDxOslo” on YouTube

From the text: “Counter intuitive as it may sound high taxes, generous welfare states and strong unions make it a better environment for people who wants to earn huge amounts of money than free markets, low taxes and minimal government”

Sharing this talk since it is a contrary position to what I have experienced in my life.

The Mars Orbiter Mission story

Imran Khan has directed a short movie on the Mars Orbiter Mission and is now available on YouTube (trailer).

The video helped me relive September 24, 2014 again. On that day, I watched Mars Orbit Insertion from Mumbai while my fiance (and now my wife) watched with her sister in Kerala. On that day, she didn’t understand the importance of the crucial Mars Orbit Mission maneuver. But, she got it only today after watching the video with me today.

Must watch whether you follow space and definitely if you have a partner with whom you want to communicate the enthusiasm for space exploration.

Revati

Revati is Zeta Piscium. It is the “star” under which my daughter was born. So, I seem to have a mental filter that catches that phrase in Twitter’s flowing timeline. Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society had posted there on the International Astronomical Union (IAU) naming a few surface features on Charon, Pluto’s moon. She had also linked to the IAU press release on the same.

They had named a crater on Charon, Revati. The press release mentioned that the feature Revati was named after a character in the epic, Mahabharata where she was a time traveller. The excerpt is below:

Revati Crater

I immediately searched on Google for the story of Revati. Emily, meanwhile, emailed one of the contacts mentioned in the press release to ask the source story of the name. My Google search led to the interesting story of Revati.

The story of Revati seems to be straight out of science fiction. She is the daughter of Kakudmi who seems to have ruled a kingdom half under the sea. Her father travels to meet Brahma to seek advice on a suitable husband for his daughter. While there, they listen to a small musical performance. At the end as Kakudmi asks Brahma to choose from a list Brahma states that most of the people suggested would be dead as as they waited there, 27 mahayugas have passed and suggested that she marry Balarama, Krishna’s brother when they return. Does this reference time dilation? When they return, humans are much smaller than them. Does this reference the evolutionary process?

I found the best narrative of the same on another blog, along with an interesting after comment. The comment is below:

Revati Time Traveller

In the meanwhile, Emily got the references and this is more fascinating reading. The book is Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy by Richard L Thompson.

I am a skeptic of the reinterpretations of past treatises using modern astronomy but am equally fascinated by these comparative studies of astronomical treatises of the present and the past and enriched by myths with science fiction elements involved.

Falcon Heavy Launch

If you haven’t seen the Falcon Heavy launch video already on YouTube, you must. If you’ve seen it, it’s worth watching again and again if you like this sorta stuff again and again.

I did not watch the launch live but a live feed was going on as I watched the launch by scrolling back as the vehicle flew to orbit.

It was lovely to see the updates on Twitter (by Elon Musk as well as other space tweeps). It was a lovely accompaniment to the live video feed on YouTube. It almost made it look like that these were tools specifically made for this purpose. Reddit went too crazy for me to meaningfully follow it on mobile.

The launch was spectacular in the following as well. It almost felt as exhilarating as watching the early Apollo missions.

Towards the afternoon Sandhya Ramesh wrote for The Wire magazine answering some of the questions that many people seemed to have had about the mission. Stephen Clark at Spaceflight Now has the most descriptive write up of today’s events itself. I haven’t seen any write up yet about the implications of the launch worth sharing that I’m not already sharing on my Tumblr.