Wednesday, February 6, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Indian Earth Station at Maitri

The Indian Earth Station at Maitri in Antarctica has been made functional this morning. The to and fro signals between Maitri and the satellite have been established and tested. The strength of the signals is excellent. We had video conference with people at ISRO in India where I also participated. The installation of the Earth Station was a major task for the 27th IAE and I am proud to be a member of this expedition. The logistics of installation were mind boggling. Construction of platform for putting the antenna to track the satellite was a tricky affair given the topography of Schirmacher Oasis. More tricky and risky was transporting the components of platform and the antenna itself from the ship. Since crevasses, deep and shallow, have now appeared in the otherwise frozen blue ice sheet during the ongoing summer season, it is not feasible to run snow vehicles to the coast at a distance of 125 km. The entire equipments and components have been transported by the two helicopters. Hats off to these two pilots of Helicopters New Zealand to have accomplished a great feat. Members of the 26th and 27th expeditions did not shy away from transporting huge and heavy parts from the helipad to the site of construction. Because of the location of Schirmacher Oasis so near to the pole, the positioning of the antenna was a crucial step since there was very little scope for any maneuverability. I do not understand all the technicalities, but Mr S S Waldia, the scientist from ISRO, had sleepless nights here. Finally everything was in place without any major hitch. He was ably assisted by Mr Raju, engineer from Electronics Corp. of India, Sunil Kushwaha (ISRO), and Chaman Lal (ECIL).

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