Chandrayaan 1 countdown begins

This article originally appeared on my blog http://pradx.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

After what is termed as a “dress rehersal” yesterday night succeededChandrayaan-1’s countdown should have started up today morning. I think what they are referring to as a dress rehersal is going through all the steps of the launch right up to the final step without actually launching the launch vehicle (just a fancy technical name for a rocket with a payload). Things have now moved into their final phase.

Space bloggers like Emily Lakdawalla is claiming the difficulty in getting images of Chandrayaan I online. It might be difficult to see a total lack of images or information after being used to bombarded with information via websites and mailing lists. ISRO doesn’t have a good website or a good mailing list. ISRO’s Chandrayaan I website may have been well designed but it hasn’t been updated for the past 17 months. 

One of the claims that this mission was supposed to do, was to encourage excitement among the younger generation for the space sciences. This was iterated several times by the Prime Minister himself. Looking at the number of people online today, I believe that ISRO should have presented their stuff online in a much more better way than has been  done. For this historic launch too, everything has been left for the media to piece and stitch together. I believe mediapersons were given a grand tour of the launch site at Sriharikota, but nothing significant has come out of it.

There are a few people working though. Times of India’s Srinivas Laxman’s coverage (see related stories for the latest) has been outstanding, though not well timed with the launch. NDTV’s Pallava Bagla, who also co-wrote a book has some excellent coverage and a good dedicated website for India’s Moon Yatra.

In the CitizenSpace efforts to popularize Chandrayaan I launch, my friend, Raghunandan (Planetary Society, India) constant pleas for material on Chandrayaan almost fell on deaf ears. The electronic data that he now has in his hands is, in his words, “quite awesome”. He is now in transit, trying to get an unofficial glimpse of the Chandrayaan I launch. He hasn’t been able to put the content online but will be happy to forward the material to you after the launch. Catch him on his email id – planetarysocietyindia (at) gmail (dot) com. 

I am also planning to carry a series of articles on how students today can benefit from Chandrayaan I’s launch on October 22 in a series of six articles on the SEDS India blog. To sign off, the media is the best place to catch the latest action in the Chandrayaan I launch arena. I’ve tried my best to try and get some of the content online and I accept, failed but I hope the lessons I have learnt enroute will help me in future launches.

Banning online satellite imagery services to combat terrorism

This article originally appeared on my blog http://pradx.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

PIL has been filed against providing free online satellite imagery in India. I really do not understand how this is going to help without beefing up security on the ground. A few points for your consideration:

1. How many such services will you ban? Google Earth is perhaps the most famous. Besides, these are embedded in several websites which can be used to get the information wanted. Besides that such services are provided by WikimapiaYahoo! and Microsoft. Have a great time blocking all these sites.

2. If you ban it in India, can’t they access it from any other country? As far as media reports go, terrorists weren’t trained in India, so I’m pretty sure they won’t access the internet from here. They can easily access the site from another country, take a print out and do what they came here to do, while people who use such services are major losers.

3. Google Earth has been used not only by researchers and scientists but also in class rooms and communities to fight several issues against the Government.

4. All publicly released satellite imagery generally tend to be 1-4 years old. Is that really useful? The maps for my place look totally different today than as seen on Google Maps/Earth.

5. If such services are so useful to terrorists, why hasn’t the Police taken steps to use them for their benefit. (I know this is not really a valid point for or against the ban, but merely a thought that came to me as I typed this)

Technology is always a double edged sword that can cut either way. These are most of the objections I can immediately think of for not banning services such as Google Earth. If you can think of others, please do leave them in the comments. Thanks

India goes to the Moon!

This article originally appeared on my blog http://pradx.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

:)

Yeah! It is yesterday’s news and you might be wondering what I have been doing for so long when the greatest news in the Indian space programme was breaking. Well, I was busy being Chandrayaan1 on Twitter

This is not connected in any way to ISRO – although I do email them the questions that I get here. I haven’t told that many people what I have been doing either. I have tried my best – please do have a look and comment!

Well, to summarize all the news – India’s first space craft to the Moon has successfully reached lunar orbit and is now circling the moon in a 100 kms circular polar orbit, doing the orbit in an awesome 2 hours.  Two on board instruments – RADOM and TMC have been switched on and are working. TMC is a camera that is taking images of the moon while the RADOM is a radiation sampler.

Tonight at around 10 pm, Chandrayaan 1 will drop the MIP (Moon Impact Probe) onto the surface of the moon. It has flags painted on four sides and will be the FIRST INDIAN OBJECT ON THE MOON! This drop will show that India can drop a probe/lander/rover onto the lunar surface the next time we come to the Moon!

Chandrayaan 1 on Twitter

This article originally appeared on my blog http://pradx.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

I tried tweeting as Chandrayaan1 on Twitter. Please do look at the feed and share your thoughts. I should have organised this a bit much more and announced it before the launch. But its never too late. This is the unofficial feed.

Also, if you were in a big group when you watched the launch, please do send me the name of your group and where you watched the launch from, and I shall be happy to add it to the Chandrayaan 1 feed.

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

This article originally appeared on my blog http://pradx.wordpress.com. 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.

People behind Chandrayaan-1

On Chandrayaan I’s coverage on NDTV there are exclusive interviews with the scientists and technicians who have made the various online instruments on board Chandrayaan I.

  1. Dr. Mylswamy Annadurai – He’s the Project Director of Chandrayaan I. There was a small note about him in the Times of India. He said designing Chandrayaan 1 was like writing lyrics for a set tune. He’s also from a district next door to my home town. He’s from near Pollachi, Coimbatore.
  2. J A Kamlakar – an expert on LASERS. His instrument on board Chandrayaan I will help measure height variation on the moon’s surface.
  3. Dr. Manuel Grande – Principal Investigator CIXS ( Chandrayaan I Xray Sepctrometer). Doug Ellison made an animation on this instrument.
  4. Dr. Urs Mall – SIR 2 (Near Infra Red Spectrometer)
  5. Dr. Stas Barabash – SARA

I’m sure that the names indicate to you the international team that has instruments on board the Chandrayaan I. It is a special feeling to have your instruments on board a space craft and to see it fly and I hope every one of you gets an opportunity to have that experience. The last rant doesn’t mean that the technology and people behind Chandrayaan 1 isn’t cool, just that it would be a lot cooler if they shared some of their thoughts with us.

The specialised NDTV page on Chandrayaan is here.