Indian Space Program – The Way to Go
A couple of weeks ago, to be precise on the 22nd of October, I was sitting at the café of my office, munching my lunch. There was an animated team at the table behind me, and they were discussing about the significant happening of that day – the launch of Chandrayaan-1 by the Indian Space Research Organization. A gentleman was asserting that such satellite missions are a waste of a common tax payer’s money and development ought to be focused on other essential areas. This set me thinking and my speech today has what the Indian Space Program has to offer.
Let us start with a brief history.
Indian Space Research Organization was founded a year after Intel (the place where I work now), that is in 1969, in a small church in Thumba in Kerala. If we think that’s where Indian Space Program began, we are wrong. Our feats in the field date back to 1802 when Tipu Sultan in Mysore war used defense rockets made of iron cases filled with black powder as propellant fuel. That rocket could go up to 2 miles. But this in fact motivated the British to develop a similar and more successful design called Congreve rocket. Well that was the innovation and risk taking story of Tipu.
Coming back to modern Space program in India, the first satellite Aryabhata was launched in 75. I’m not going to talk about the list of satellites or other statistics. Let’s rather turn our attention to what these satellites are trying to acheive. There are 2 categories of satellites. 1. Communication and 2. Remote Sensing
Comm. Satellites as most of us know have a quiet yet profound effect on our daily lives. From good old Doordhashan to the latest Navigator series, comm. Satellites have left their mark in our lives.
But what are these Remote Sensing satellites? Okay what is remote sensing? The simplest form of Remote Sensing could be you or I reading a book or taking a snap with a camera. I believe many of us here have sent their entries to the photography contest. In the same way, Remote Sensing is used to model and understand the dynamics of geo-activities like no other land based study has ever done. The power of synoptic coverage gives a totalitarian objective and helps draw a holistic picture.
All fine, but where do I see the applications of these satellites?
- Agriculture – the long, strong back bone of our country. As we all know plants have chlorophyll and this chlorophyll has a specific reflectance which is picked by the remote sensing sensors aboard. This prediction is used to find the total production of a crop in the state, where we meet the demand etc. The crops having specific diseases are also being identified.
- The direction and spread of forest fires and deforestation have been detected and checked using Remote Sensing satellites especially in Nagaland and other north-east districts.
- Oceanology - Not just in land, the chlorophyll in ocean along with the temperatures is used to advice the fishermen about the exact location of fish population. The boats have GPS and their job is highly simplified. This has been implemented in many districts along the east coast.
- Disaster prediction and mitigation - How else did US know when and where Katrina and Rita were going to strike and how many were to be relocated!!
- And finally Mineral and rock mapping as is the case in Chandrayaan. How is it going to help the common man? As some of us might know, this latest ISRO baby is checking how useful the minerals and Helium found on moon would be. Helium is found in abundance and even if we are able to tap 2 tons from the moon, it could be sued to generate power supply to the entire country for a year.
So what do we conclude and what do we tell the critics?
In any structure, there should be a sustainable development; we can’t hinder progress for the sake of some other progress. In case of remote sensing satellites like Chandrayaan, the chain to reach the end mile or grass roots is highly scientific, lengthy and indirect in a way.
I believe, like all other systems in our country, the benefits space has to offer us will reach the common man but with a delay.
The awesome twosome
The two of them were a part of my family until a few years ago. They both were German Shepherds. One was Jackie, the tan and black father, with a majestic walk and a sharp look that most humans and dogs would give more than just a second thought before interfering with him. The other was Tony, the ebullient gray furred son, full of life and a darling to every one who had managed to come near him irrespective of his inherited outer shell. It was difficult for anyone to believe that the two were related because they never got along well. They probably would have been, had the mother lived with them.
When Jackie was a year old, his owners left the town and news spread in the locality that the dog was for sale. So it was destined that he spent the rest of his life with us. I was at a boarding school then and Jackie had been in my house for a year before I returned. So when I came back, I was a stranger to him. It took me another year to be at ease with him. He was closest to dad; German Shepherds are known to be a little possessive but till the end, whenever dad was at home, he would never let anyone come near him or dad. Other times, he was a very good friend to mom and me. He was a real person(You got to believe me, he really was!), a mature one in that; sometimes when I used to be sad, he would recognize that and look at me with consoling eyes which had made me feel I was much smaller than he was. Other times, whenever a guest came home, he was at his best, barking his throat out (he was tied during day. So all he could do was to bark) to protect his family from potential invaders.
So when Tony arrived at our house 4 years later as a 10-day old infant, it was a matter of not just Jackie’s loss of privacy but also a possessiveness that his place in our hearts was going to be shared. The fact that this toddler was just as smart as he was (He hadn’t made out his bloodline obviously) only more charming and innocent, gave him a revulsion whenever he saw Tony. We had imagined that the two would be good friends (after all, we thought, dogs of the same genes would flock together) if not any extended sentiments. Now everything had to be done twice and separate for the two, accommodation, feeding, bathing, taking them for a walk (morning and eveningL) etc.
Tony indeed drew our attention most of the time and required our attention other times. For the first two nights after arriving at our home, he never slept. Neither did he let us to. He was weeping, obviously searching for his mother’s warmth. I kept him in a bed sheet in a corner of my bedroom tending to him. Moreover that would keep him away from Jackie, who we feared, if left free would devour Tony.
Tony grew into a pampered pup, doing everything and anything he wanted around the house. He used to sneak into Jackie’s room prudently, and then walk in with style as if on a ramp, wagging his tail exuberantly at him. When the latter saw him and barked, he would tantalize him by going nearer (of course ensuring he was in the safe zone out of Jackie’s reach) apparently grinning, turn back, and rush out; the same would continue after some time. His father would be frenzied but finally he gave up and reminded quiet. After all he was a dog with dignity. But Tony’s feats did not end there. He spent his time chasing his tail going round and round about himself upsetting things that were on his way. I had to buy a second set of higher secondary books that year because they had been nibbled by my beloved pup. The same was the case with my footwear. There have been days when I used to wake up in terror only to realize that it was my canine kid that had woken me by licking my face putting his forelimbs on the bed (he was too small to climb) My mom then started to use this as a strategy to wake me by placing him right on my bed. Whenever I call him as I enter the house, he used to come dashing and unable to stop, he would fall, get up with the same speed and put his forelimbs around to welcome me.
Tony lacked the aggression which Jackie had and that made the two complementary. One thing that bound me to them was that they always let their eyes do the talking. They would listen to me and respond too. I used to talk to them, play with them or just stroke their fur starring else where lost in my thoughts, while the two would just lie by my side (of course one at a time!) starring at the same direction as me. They left this world in successive years in 2002 and 2003. I remember them often especially whenever I hear a movie song which translates into something like “When we understand nature and let the hearts speak, there is no need for any language created by man”. For those folks to whom the previous line doesn’t make any sense, you really got to own a dog. It was a very special friendship to me. In fact it still is.