From The Times:
Standing at the bottom of his garden, cup of coffee in hand, Gopinath Garirao, 63, peered into the dawn sky and marvelled as the Indian rocket streaked into orbit, fuelled by the hopes of a billion people.
When he was born in 1945 India was still under British colonial rule and more than two years away from the bloody chaos of Partition.
He joined the Indian Railways as an engineer in 1969 – the year that Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon – and worked there until he retired in 2005, on a pension of £100 a month. He has lived through one war with China and three with Pakistan.
There he was, standing outside with his wife, Kalavati Bai, watching the launch of Chandrayaan1 – India’s first unmanned mission to the Moon – from his own back garden.
- Chandrayaan-1 (meaning “Moon Craft-1”) on its way to the launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India. / Indian Space Research Organisation
India launched its first lunar mission from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, about 100 kilometers (63 miles) north of Chennai, at 06:20 am (0050 GMT) Wednesday, October 22, 2008, putting the country in an elite group of nations with the scientific know-how to reach the moon. The 3,000 pound (1,400 kilogram) satellite Chandrayaan-1 will join Japanese and Chinese crafts currently in orbit around the moon for a two-year mission designed to map out the whole lunar surface. AP
The rocket on the launch pad
On an island off the Bay of Bengal in southern India, the mood is upbeat but also slightly tense.
This is the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota – India’s launch pad for its satellite missions.
It’s now being prepared for what is the country’s most ambitious space venture to date, an unmanned mission to the moon.
Its indigenously built satellite, Chandrayaan-1 – the name is Sanskrit for lunar craft – will blast off on an Indian-built rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, early on Wednesday.
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Beyond The Moon
Mukul Sharma in the Times of India:
But why on earth are we going to the Moon at all and that too at a cost of nearly Rs 400 crore? Surely there are other pressing priorities back home like poverty, literacy, medical care, infrastructure development etc that needs urgent attention and the taxpayers’ money.
Besides, why are we doing this now when others have done it several decades ago? The former Soviet Union and the United States both launched successful lunar orbiting satellites way back in 1966.
We’re told that, among other things, the mission will try to source non-radioactive Helium-3 which is scarce on Earth but believed to be abundant on its natural satellite and is seen as a promising fuel for advanced fusion reactors in the future. Once located, we can transport it back from the moon to run nuclear plants and generate abundant electricity. Apparently, a couple of tonnes of Helium-3 are enough to meet the energy needs of the world. So how come other advanced nations of the world haven’t thought along similar lines?