Sriharikota is just 80 kms from Chennai. And I was very tempted to go down there to see the blast off of the PSLV rocket carrying Chandrayaan, the moon voyager.
But then it has been raining heavily in this part of the country. And I couldnt figure out if they would allow visitors anywhere within sighting distance of the launch site. And on a clouded day, one would perhaps see the rocket for a second or two before it whizzed out of sight. And the launch was scheduled for 6:20 am or so, pretty early in the morning… To cut a short story long, I didnt go, and decided to watch it on TV instead.
And the TV channels too didnt seem to be beaming pictures real time. They were showing some older pictures, and suddenly, the anchor announced that they had just heard that Chandrayaan had taken off – and then they showed a short frame of the rocket base alone firing, and then a second or two of the rocket up in the sky, and ‘poof’, gone… cut to scientists in white uniform, all sitting in packed rows, looking at computer screens and controls in front of them…
There were no ‘nine-eight-seven-six-five-four-three-two-one-zero Blast Off’ kind of announcements that one was sort of expecting. The blast off was over, before one realized, double quick!
But then, all said and done, it felt great. Chandrayaan was off! On its way to the moon! Mr Madhavan Nair, ISRO chairman, has said that they have a vision of having an Indian land on the moon in 2015. Now, isnt that something!
A good friend sent me the link to a diary kept by some of the Chandrayaan scientists, carried by Outlook magazine.
Here are a few excerpts from some pages of that diary, kept by K.B. Anantha Rama Sarma, Associate Project Director and Operational in-charge, Chandrayaan-1 Project. To see the whole diary, you can click here.
**Diary excerpts begin**
Satellite was flagged off at 5-45AM at ISAC, Bangalore.
By 3-45 PM, satellite entered the main gate of Sriharikota range and by 3-50 PM reached the first destination at the launch site, called SP-1B. It was a relief for the entire team who traveled along with the satellite; remember the satellite traveled at a speed of about 20 kmph for about 350 kms!
From the arrival of the satellite it was a marathon for the entire team. Every activity to be executed on the satellite was already finalized to the minutest detail and the activity scheduling was already done few weeks back. Now the time has come for the execution of the plan. All teams were told in advance when they are required.
From the time the satellite arrived all activities went on continuously, round the clock. The defined teams were ready as per their shift timings.
08-10-08 to 09-10-08
Last six months we were knowing only calendar dates, but no days or holidays. This time we were told that Dasara festivals are in progress and Mahanavami is on October 9th.
All of us joined together in celebrating the Dasara and praying for the success of Chandrayaan-1 PSLV C-11 mission.
In less than eight days all the planned activities were completed. The earlier record for any previous satellite at SP-1 was thirteen days and we have done it in eight days! This was due to the dedicated efforts of more than hundred scientists, engineers and technicians belonging to various ISRO centres
ISRO again proves that nothing is impossible. I always wonder what is the driving force behind us? Money? No. Power? No. Fame? No.
It is self-motivation and dedication.
I cannot wait anymore, AND I AM EAGERLY WAITING FOR THE launch of PSLV-C11.
**Diary excerpts end
In these times of mindless violence, brazen corruption, total political opportunism, and general economic crisis, one hardly looks forward to reading the morning newspaper or watching the early mornin news on TV. But today was an exception. For it was the day we left all this, and reached for the moon. One feels great peace and a silent joy.
Brings to my mind an ancient prayer of the Vedas, the Chamakaprashnam, where one seeks among other things – pR^ithivii cha ma indrashcha me, antarikshaM cha ma indrashcha me, dyaushcha ma indrashcha me, dishashcha ma indrashcha me – ‘May the earth be for me, the space be for me, the heavens be for me, the directions be for me…’