Tuesday, November 18, 2008
CHANDRAYAAN 1 - India on Moon
The MIP crashed at a place called the Shackleton crater in the south polar region of the Moon and put the Tricolour on the Moon. The crater also is possible site for future human missions to the moon.
The Shackleton crater has an undulating terrain with hills and valleys. Since the valleys are in the moon’s permanently shadowed regions, it could harbour water and ice.
What was extraordinary about the historic event of Chandrayaan -1’s probe landing on the moon on Friday night was that the spacecraft was built in India, it was put into orbit by the Indian rocket, PSLV-C11, and the launch took place from Indian soil.
When I was in school in late sixties, one of the favourite topics for English essay writing and science project was ‘visit to the Moon’. I remember making visits with my friends to USIS (United States Information Service, earlier version of American Centre) and the Russian Centre to collect printed material on these countries’ space programmes. We were so enamoured with those glossy magazines and what a thrill we got in collecting them for free.
Then on July 20, 1969, US won the race when it succeeded first in landing a manned flight onto the surface of moon. The newspapers next morning (Television had made its token appearance in Delhi only, was in its very early days of infancy, and we did not have it) were full of pictures and story of man’s first steps on the Moon. Neil Armstrong had become a hero and a role model immediately. The same day I happen to go to my father’s business premises where I also met our octogenarian Munimji. Munimji was a very respectable member of our family who not only handled the accounts of our business firm but also the affairs our joint family as well. He was part of all family decisions, and was consulted for all matrimonial alliances of my father’s generations. When my father reached his marriageable age, my grandmother had sent Munimji first to my Nanaji’s house to approve the family and the prospective bride. At the shop that day in July, 1969, there was more number of newspapers. All were discussing the moon-landing, about the site, possibilities of living on moon etc. Our Munimji listened to all this for a while, and then thundered – ‘it is all bakwaas (bulls..t); no one has landed on the moon; it is all amrikan propaganda’. No body opposed him! Little did he realize that he would later find support for his disbelief not from Russians who were beaten in their race to Moon, but from the Americans only.
On February 15, 2001 the FOX television network aired a program titled Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land On The Moon? This program showed alleged evidence that NASA faked the moon landings. This hoax theory has been around for several years, but this is the first time it has been presented to such a wide audience. This programme is freely available on CD and I watched it during my Antarctica days. What it says basically is that NASA was in such a hurry to beat Russians in their landing on Moon that it hatched a major conspiracy to fool its own people as well as of the world (If you can not make it, fake it). There are now websites on this topic and NASA as well as many independent experts and scientists have strongly and scientifically refuted the claims of advocates of hoax theory.
The lunar probe of Chandrayaan 1 has landed on the south polar region of Moon. The area where it landed is Shackleton crater. South Pole and Shackleton are so intimately linked with Antarctica! But Shackleton, being a great hero of early Antarctic exploration, has been honoured at Moon too.
After joining many prestigious clubs (nuclear club, satellite club, Antarctica club, Arctic club), we are over the moon now. Many people ask what India is achieving in establishing bases at such formidable and inhospitable places like Antarctica and Arctic. And now why Moon? There are many scientific as well as geo-political answers to such doubts. I shall not go into that. But it is a great feeling that we are over the Moon!