First Report on Space Tourism in India

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on April 5, 2011. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Clark Lindsey posted on his RLV and Space Transport blog yesterday about this first report on space tourism in India. The report is brought out by the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) and McGill University. I had a cursory glance through this report and given below are my thoughts about this report.

The Report is done by a University (UPES) which you would not equate with space. It is done by the Center for Aviation Studies and released by a Secretary in the Civil Aviation Ministry. Again, not really showing involvement from anyone in the space business in India today. This makes it a tad difficult to understand their background with relation to this subject.

The Report itself is in an interesting format. It puts out the condition in the US and compares the same with the Indian situation and draws unfortunate parallels. For example, it talks about building spaceports merely by extending airports. It even talks about DGCA playing a role similar to what the FAA does in the USA.

The Report is perhaps a first that is publicly released and perhaps lays the foundation for in-depth topic specific reports on various aspects of space tourism. There have been interesting suggestions for space tourism vehicles based out of India – as an example Earth2Orbit’s Sushmita Mohanty suggested developing the Space ReEntry Experiment vehicle(SRE)  as a space tourism vehicle out of India. Such bold suggestions were not studied or considered during the course of this report. It also depended rather heavily on the US scenario and did not envisage anything from the Indian perspective which could have made it a more worthwhile report rather than trying to make it an Indian copy of a US model.

India has many interesting alternatives. Entrepreneurial companies like Team Indus and Earth2Orbit are sprouting in India which could develop and improve SREs or even totally new ventures developing rockets and crafts that could handle the technology aspect. A Space Transportation Authority could be setup coming out of the current Launch Authorisation Board from within ISRO. There is already an Indian expecting to fly in SpaceShipTwo.

All in all, I think that the report is an important first step which was not bold enough and forward thinking enough but which I hope pushes many more studies and public interest in the idea of space tourism.

National Conference on Electric Propulsion

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 31, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

The Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre is hosting the National Conference on Electric Propulsion [PDF]. This is a 2 day conference to be held between 23 and 24 February 2011. Last date of reciept of abstract is January 10, 2011.

India tried entering the electric propulsion age with a station keeping system on GSAT-4 which was lost on the GSLV flight in April, 2010

My Days at SEDS

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on April 9, 2009 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

In about a month or two, I will graduate from college and will head out to follow a career path that I hope will some day lead me to the door steps of ISRO. As one of the co-starters of SEDS in India, I thought you may be interested in sharing the journey of SEDS till date. My passion for outer space started way back when I was 13 years old and I have been smitten ever since. Despite the best efforts from several people, I have not been able to go off the path of space sciences. At age 17, sitting in an internet cafe, looking for a space organisation, the first one that came up was Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS).

I was able to find several amateur astronomy clubs in India but none that were dedicated to space engineering. I learnt however that some did exist but I seemed to have been not patient enough to find them. I shared my concern on the forums of SEDS and there was able to meet several people who convinced me that I can be the right person to start the Indian extension of SEDS. While I remained non-commital, I was introduced to Abhishek Ray who seems to have found out about SEDS in the same way and had expressed the same interest.

So, way back in late 2004 and early 2005, with a simple forums announcment, we got started with SEDS in India. We started off with perhaps 10 members or so. Even with such humble beginnings the dreams of two late teens clashed with what SEDS could be or do in India. We both felt that the ultimate thrill would be for ISRO to some day come to us looking for great leaders who could lead their projects and missions. What a thrill that would be!

Things did get difficult from there on and we had a lean patch where SEDS was not doing much and we were mostly co-ordinating and working towards an international SEDS organisation than building anything here in India. Throughout this phase of SEDS in India, I would like to specially point to the help provided by Kirk Kittell, then a Vice Chair at SEDS USA.

Enter Pranav Aggrawal and the chapter at Vellore Institute of Technology University. After failing with a two chapter model, we thought of putting all efforts into building one chapter properly that could then serve as an example for several other chapters across the country. By working on one chapter with effective results we thought that this could help people understand our work better and also aid forming chapters.

With this intention most of 2007 and 2008 was spent building up the chapter of SEDS at VIT University. This was an era of several wonderful conversations and idea storms that I shared with Pranav Aggrawal and we are still a bit sad that we were not able to implement many of the ideas that we did have. Perhaps, the SEDS International Conference 2007 hosted by VIT University was the time that SEDS in India stepped up and did what several people still reminiscense as a wonderful conference.

There, for perhaps the first time, we brought to India, the Moon Rover Design Competition and water rocket competitions. It was a great joy for us to the wonderful turnout that we had and the grand success that the event was.

The event also got us attention to what SEDS was and as to the projects and events that we had done. At this point, we discovered that having a big successful chapter can also work in another way, to make new chapters worry about their success or failiure. In 2007, we began efforts to streamline the organisation, get it registered and to begin expanding to younger chapters.

Several innovative solutions were brought to the table by the founding Executive Committee members (Anmol Sharma, Snehal Deshpande, Krishna Mohanty, Ashish Aggrawal being the chief among them) and several others who worked with and under us during the period. We developed solutions that would I think help us in the future as the organisation grows and spreads across India.

An organisation that started with a dream has now got some very practical implementations for the way we work – the activities that we choose to do and the implementation of our projects. We hope we can continuously improve and be more effective than we have been.

In 2009, Snehal Deshpande and Krishna Mohanty and others at the chapter in VITU, worked hard to bring to fruition the SEDS India National Conference (SINC 2009). Here too we brought the cansat competition for the first time in India, got all the small satellite developers from across India at a venue (thanks to ISRO  and specially, Dr. Raghava Murthy for this), math modelling etc. We hope to do much better in 2010. There are many projects already planned and several that we are still brainstorming. For the new chapters, I hope this is a great opportunity and for VIT, perhaps a caution that we have only covered a small distance in the vast ocean.

To conclude, I would like to thank several people who have helped me in starting and getting SEDS up on its feet – Kirk Kittell, Pranav Aggrawal and Abhishek Ray. There have also been people that each of these individuals including me reached out to – brothers, friends, professors etc who have advised us and kept us going. I also hope that the future members of SEDS remember all these people who helped set up the organisation and worked hard to contribute to what it has become today.

Thanks for being a part of this journey and I hope that while I hand over this mantle to the next generation they will take SEDS to great heights and perhaps one day even to another planet or even another star :).

How can youth be more proactive in helping shape our space programme?

This article originally appeared on my blog I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

Bijal Thakore, recently on the Planetary Society board, asked people: How can youth be more proactive in helping shape our space programs? This is not really an exact reply to that question but is a first general hit in that direction. Let’s see where the thought process goes.

  1. Outreach is a good place to start and learn things that you don’t know about. It’s also a good way to show people in space missions/projects etc. how passionate you are on a subject or in a field. I believe that is the extent to which outreach can be pushed. It gives you a sense of recognition for your passion.
  2. The second thing to get involved – specially students is to understand their own country’s space policy. Organisations like SEDS, Planetary Society etc. can bring this closer to the people by breaking down such policy into things which today’s youth can understand and offer implications of these actions on them.
  3. The third thing is to get involved in projects. Projects are much better way to understand the complexities that a space scientist faces during his design and fabrication. Taking part in a project is also a good excuse for an educational institution to develop their own infrastructure. But it does take a lot of effort and hard work, but it’s fun.
  4. The fourth thing is events. These are the best platforms to showcase what you have done in your sphere of interest. It is also a place to make the public involved in your activities and even if just for a moment, to share the thrill that members of organisations get to have daily. This is also a place where organisations grow with people wanting to have the thrill for the rest of the year and possibly, rest of their life time.

All in all, this is not a complete roadmap to changing around a space programme into a direction where timelines can crushed to get things done faster. This is just enough to get a swell of ground support so that what you do matters to people with power and money to get your work done.


Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on September 17, 2008 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

A pass time that I cultivated long ago in the hope of expressing my skills in geography, civics and science is called imagiNATION. That’s short for imaginary nation. It also expresses that the nation is part of that person’s imagination. Two of my cousins and my brother also have their imagiNATIONs.

My brother took the name Elvenia because his birthday falls on the 11th of December and also because he’s fascinated by elves.

I stand by a name that came to me on a geometry box that my father brought for me. My imagiNATION is called Helix.



Helix (There was a MS Paint generated map here that is forever lost?)

These nations actually refine themselves as one matures. You can keep on adding new innovations there and use it as a playground for testing something that needs to be done in the real world.I also plan to write an imaginary travelogue. Has anyone tried one?

Progress and Revolution

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 8, 2006 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

The following is an article in J. Krishnamurti’s Commentaries on Living – Second Series. Please read this carefully. I am not suggesting this as a course to take. Purely for discussion. In this article, JK is talking with a revolutionary. There will be no blog posts till 13 December, 2006. So, feel free to discuss. These are from notes he took while talking with different people.

Progress and Revolution

He said he was a revolutionary, ready to kill or be killed for his cause, for his ideology. He was prepared to kill for the sake of a better world. To destroy the present social order would of course produce more chaos, but this confusion could be used to build a classless society. What did it matter if you destroyed some or many in the process of building a perfect social order? What mattered was not the present man, but the future man; the new world that they were going to build would have no inequality, there would be work for all, and there would be happiness.

How can you be so sure of the future? What makes you so certain of it? The religious people promise heaven, and you promise a better world in the future; you have your book and your priests, as they have theirs, so there is really not much difference between you. But what makes you so sure that your clear-sighted about the future?

“Logically, if we follow a certain course the end is certain. Moreover, there is a great deal of historic evidence to support our position.”

We all translate the past according to our particular conditioning and interpret it to suit our prejudices. You are as uncertain of tomorrow as the rest of us, and thank heaven it is so! But to sacrifice the present for an illusory future is obviously most illogical.

“Do you believe in change, or are you a tool of the capitalist bourgeoise?

Change is modified continuity, which you may call revolution; but fundamental revolution is quite a different process, it has nothing to do with logical or historical evidence. There is fundamental revolution only in understanding the total process of action, not at any particular levelm whether economic or ideological, but action as an intergrated whole. Such action is not reaction. You only know reaction, the action of antithesis, and the further reaction which you call synthesis. Integration is not an intellectual synthesis, a verbal confusion based on historical study. Integration can come into being only with the understanding of reaction. The mind is a series of reactions; and revolution based on reactions, on ideas, is no revolution at all, but only a modified continuity based on reactions, on ideas, is no revolution at all, but only a modified continuity of what has been. You may call it revolution, but actually it is not.

“What to you is revolution?”

Change based on an idea is not revolution; for idea is the response of memory, which is again a reaction. Fundamental revolution is possible only when ideas are not important and so have ceased. A revolution born of antagonism ceases to be what it says it is; it is only opposition, and opposition can never be creative.

“The kind of revolution you are talking about is purely an abstraction, it has no reality in the modern world. You are a vague idealist, utterly impractical.”

On the contrary, the idealist is the man with an idea, and it is he who is not a revolutionary. Ideas divide, and separation is disintegration, it is not revolution at all. The man with an ideology is concerned with ideas, words, and not with direct action; he avoids direct action. An ideology is a hindrance to direct action.

“Don’t you think there can be equality through revolution?”

Revolution based on an idea, however logical and in accordance with historical evidence, cannot bring about equality. The very function of idea is to separate people. Belief, religious or political sets man against man. So-called religions have divided people, and still do. Organized belief, which is called religion, is, like any other ideology, a thing of the mind and therefore seperative. You with your ideology are doing the same, are you not? You also are forming a nucleus or group around an idea; you want to include everyone in your group, just as the believer does. You want to save the world in your way, as he in his. You murder and liquidate each other, all for a better world. Neither of you is interested in a better world, but in shaping the world according to your idea. How can idea make for equality?

“Within the fold of the idea, we are all equal, though we may have different functions. We are first what the idea represents, and afterwards we are individual functionaries. In function, we have gradations, but not as representatives of the ideology.”

This is precisely what every other organized belief has proclaimed. In the eyes of God we are all equal, but in capacity there is variation; life is one, but social divisions are inevitable. By substituting one ideology for another you have not changed the fundamental fact that one group or individual treats another as inferior. Actually, there is inequality at all levels of existence. One has capacity, and other has not; one leads, and another follows; one is dull, and another is sensitive, alert, adaptable; one paints or writes, and another digs; one is a scientist and another a sweeper. Inequality is a fact and no one can do away with it. What so-called revolution does is to substitute one group for another, and the new group then assumes power, political and economic; it becomes the new upper class which proceeds to strengthen itself by privileges, and so on; it knows all the tricks of the other class, which has been thrown down. It has not abolished inequality, has it?

“Eventually it will. When the whole world is of our way of thinking, then there will be ideological equality”

Which is not equality at all, but merely an idea, a theory, the dream of another world, like that of the religious believer. How very near you are to each other! Ideas divide, they are seperative, opposive, breeding conflict. An idea can never bring about equality, even in its own world. If we all believed the same thing, at the same time, at the same level, there would be equality of a sort, but that is an impossibility, a mere speculation which can only lead to illusion.

“Are you scouting all equality? Are you being cynical and condemning all efforts to bring about equal opportunity for all?”

I am not being cynical, but am merely stating the obvious facts; nor am I against equal opportunity. Surely, it is possible to go beyond and perhaps discover an effective approach to this problem of inequality, only when we understand the actual, what is. To approach what is with an idea, a conclusion, a dream, is not to understand what is. Prejudiced observation is no observation at all. The fact is, there is inequality at all the levels of consciousness, of life; and do what we may, we cannot alter that fact.

Now, is it possible to approach the fact of inequality without creating further antagonism, further division? Revolution has used man as a means to an end. The end was important, but not man. Religions have maintained, at least verbally, that man is important; but they too have used man for the building up of belief, of dogma. The utilizing of man for a purpose must of necessity breed the sense of the superior and the inferior, the one who is near and the one who is far, the one who knows and the one who does not know. This separation of psychological inequality, and it is a factor if disintegration in society uses the individual, just as individuals use each other, in order to benefit in various ways. This using of another is the fundamental cause of the psychological division of man against man.

We cease to use one another only when the idea is not the motivating factor in the relationship. With idea comes exploitation, and exploitation breeds antagonism.

“Then what is the factor that comes into being when idea ceases?”

It is love, the only factor that can bring about a fundamental revolution. Love is the only true revolution. But love is not an idea, it is when thought is not. Love is not a tool of propaganda; it is not something to be cultivated and shouted about from the house tops. Only when the flag, the belief, the leader, the idea as planned action, drop away, can there be love; and love is the only creative and constant revolution.

“But love won’t run machinery, will it?”

Space Projects

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 6, 2006 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

I am involved in a satellite project. It’s actually not such an alien thing to do. There are more than 50+ satellites currently under construction and ready to be sent all around the globe. All this is under the CubeSat project that was started by Califoria Polytechnic. My appreciation for such projects. There are also numerous others bigger satellites under development. So, how’s ours different?

We’re students. We’re all in one organisation. But we all live in different countries. So, what do we hope to do? Research – Construct – Assemble and Launch. Straight forward to listen to. Here’s the fun part. We build parts of the satellite in different parts of the world. So, one country builds the outer structure. The other builds internal structure, another solders the communications circuits and so on. Well, the satellite is no good in parts, is it? So, we bring it all to one place and we put it together. Take it to a launch pad and launch it.

We’ve been discussing it since 2005 as a technical project in which we can all be physically and not Internet-ly involved. Sending emails and IMs are now passe. Collaborate with others across the globe and build stuff.

I hope some car enthusiasts group from different countries can build a global car. They can release the manufacturing notes and let anyone with resources build a car for themselves. The experience of driving in a car you build is totally different and very very few people have experienced it. And don’t stick to cars either. Try to do this across other stuff as well.

All this is a great way to network. You know these people are serious and not just bluffing with you. Also, you get to meet new people. Learn to trust each other. Who knows, maybe one day we can have peaceful co-existence that we have been trying to achieve for the past 2000 years.

Lotsa work

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 3, 2006 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

I dunno if you’ve experienced this yourself but you tend to finish a lot more when you’re having your exams as compared to when you’re not having one. I did the SEDS India website, reset my blog, deleted my rolls, contributed to the mailing lists, removed myself from Orkut and Facebook (darned things took a lot of my time – they’re time eaters) and read through 23 blogs (not blog posts everyday, which might be a greater no. ~50-60 posts everyday). All this besides studying..


Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 3, 2006 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Some songs have an uncanny resemblance to either your life or your personality. I was listening to The Corrs (again??) and found that this song had this for me. I’ll search the net to see if I can find the song and put it up a later.

But here are the lyrics in question:

“Do you feel you’re someone else inside,
And no one understands (who) you are..”

Trust me. No one in the world, not even me understands me completely and I always feel that I’m someone else inside.

“Then you stumble on tomorrow,
And trip over today”

Well, not exactly..but this makes more sense:

“You’re racing for tomorrow,
Not finished with today”

Jumping from one thing to another between my interests. When I’m studying, I’m thinking of project ideas…When I should be thinking project ideas..”Darn! Haven’t finished that chapter”.

“Would the sun shine brighter,
If you played a bigger part”

I wonder..

“So you promise that tomorrow
[will] be different than today..”


The song? ‘Would you be happier?’ – The Corrs. That’s a double whammy on the occassion tof 4 down 2 to go..

Ancient Indian Astronomers

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from here which is also something I ran. This post appeared on April 1, 2006 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

History has not yet caught up with the investigation of the works done by the scholars of Ancient India. In this article, I would like to give you a brief idea of the work of some of the great astronomers of ancient India. Before beginning, let me tell you that these men were mostly into several fields at the same time. So, the same person may have dealt in varied subjects like astronomy,mathematics, philosophy etc. at the same time.

We begin this journey covering the works of ancient astronomers with Aryabhata.

Aryabhata was one of the revolutionaries in science whose work, the Aryabhatiya was almost forgotten. Aryabhata is regarded as the greatest mathematician-astronomer of India. It was with this honour that India’s first satellite was named after him.

Aryabhatta was born in 476 A.D. He wrote his first work, Aryabhatiya in 499 A.D. at the age of 23. The Aryabhatiya deals with both mathematics and astronomy and is divided into four parts: Gitikapada (preliminaries), Ganitapada (mathematics), Kalakriyapada (reckoning of time) and Golapada (astronomy).

Aryabhata (476 – 550 A.D.) believed that the earth rotated on its axis and the stars were fixed in space.  He goes on to say that the apparent rotation of the heavens was due to the fact that the earth revolved around its axis.  According to him the period of one rotation of the earth is 23 hours 56 mn 4.1s while the modern value is 23 hours 56 mn 4.091s.  His accuracy regarding this is amazing. To justify this point, he stated:

“Just as a man in a boat moving forward sees the stationery objects (on either
side of the river) as moving backward, just so are the stationery stars seen
by people at Lanka (on the equator), as moving exactly towards the west.”

Aryabhata was among the first astronomers to make an attempt at measuring the Earth’s circumference. Aryabhata accurately calculated the Earth’s circumference as 24,835 miles, which was only 0.2% smaller than the actual value of 24,902 miles.

Another of Aryabhatta’s work, Aryabhatiya-Siddhanta, is only known through references to it another books.Among his most notable contributions to modern astronomy are: the explanation and computation of solar and lunar eclipses, the expounding of the heliocentric model of the solar system and the computation of the length of earth’s revolution around the sun.

We now go ahead in chronological order to the other great astronomers of ancient India beginning with Varahmihira (505 – 587 AD). He worked as one of the Navratnas or nine gems in the court of Chandragupta Vikramaditya. His book Panchasiddhantika (The Five Astronomical Canons), written in 575 AD gives us information about older Indian texts which are now lost. The work is a treatise on mathematical astronomy.

Next,we come to, Brahmagupta (598-668 AD). He wrote two texts – Brahmasphutasiddhanta in 628 and the Khandakhadyaka in 665. Some of his important contributions are: methods for calculations of the motions and places of various planets, their rising and setting, conjunctions, and the calculations of eclipses of the sun and the moon.

Sripati(1019 – 1066 AD) was an Indian astronomer and mathematician, author of Dhikotidakarana (written in 1039 AD) a work on solar and lunar eclipses. He also wrote the Druvamanasa in 1056 AD for calculating planetary longitudes, eclipses and planetary transits. He also wrote a majr work on astronomy titled Siddhantasekhara and an incomplete mathematical treatise Ganitatilaka.

Next, we take a look at Bhaskara (1114 – 1185). His main works are Lilavati, Bijaganti and Siddhanta Shiromani. He worked on the following subjects: mean longigtudes of the planets, true longitudes of the planets, the three problems of diurnal rotation, syzygies, lunar and solar eclipses,latitudes of the planets, risings and settings, the moon’s crescent, conjunctions of planets with each other and the conjunctions of planets with the fixed stars, the paths of the sun and the moon. He is also credited with the near accurate calculation of the sidereal earth as 365.2588 days. The modern accepted measurement is 365.2596 days, an error of just one minute. He also wrote about the first visibility of the planets,astronomical instruments, problems of astronomical calculations and the seasons.

Here we end the great journey that began with Aryabhatta and ended with Bhaskara. I hope you can respect that the work that these great astronomers have done at so early a time. Their work was lost before being found. Theories are being discussed that the Arabs translated this work in Kerala and then made it available to the Europeans in the 15th century which introduced them to the works of calculus. This is only a theory and has not yet been proved.Studies on this matter continues till this date. There is also work on the translation of some of the major works into English and Hindi. But, the true beauty of these works can be recognized only when read in the language in which they were written –  Sanskrit.