Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chandrayaan-1 Enters Lunar Orbit

ISRO's team of scientists and engineers today declared Chandrayaan-1 a success with the satellite being placed in the moon's orbit with pin-point accuracy. The nearly-Rs. 400 cr project entered its most critical phase today, and ISRO handled it with skill.

According to PTI, the satellite entered a zone where the earth's gravitational field nearly cancels out that of the moon, a zone which could have thrown Chandrayaan into deep space or on a crash course towards earth. The right combination of thrust was necessary to avert a disaster, and ISRO did it successfully. It is worth mentioning that 30% of all American and Soviet lunar missions failed at this stage.

However, the cot of the mission has been hotly debated. Although the cheapest yet most advanced lunar mission so far, Chandrayaan-1 has sadly been described by some as unnecessary. I beg to apart. Apart from the potential fuel reserves (of Helium-3), the high-resolution imaging technology developed during this mission will prove useful in the years to come.

On a more profound level, Indians have always dealt with Science and Technology. Our puranas are treasure-chests of scientific information and our great epics come with scientifically recorded events and objects. In short, India means science. To put a price tag on exploration and scientific research would be a disaster. The benefits of such missions are known decades after they begin, that does not mean that they are pointless. Chandrayaan-1 represents a deep hunger for scientific knowledge, a hunger that has fueled civilisations including our own. Money cannot be allowed to come in the way of science.

As former President APJ Abdul Kalam said, every Indian should be proud of Chandrayaan. Unlike China, we have not made this an instrument to spread propaganda. India's moon mission is an International collaboration, not a closed-doors affair. This proves yet again that science has no boundaries.

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