Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chaand Chupa Baadal mein….

October 22nd and India is set to take a big step forward in its Space aspirations. The moon destined Chandrayaan mission was to take off at 6:20 am and my mobile phone alarmed me in the wee small hours and I got ready to witness the expected spectacle and the Hollywood NASA style celebration. I turned my TV on and all the news channels had some geeky looking old men quoting all sorts of facts and figures of astronomical proportions. That woke me up completely then. I had 5 news channels lined up and I started flipping through them and each of them had a countdown timer at a corner of the screen and ironically each of them showed different timings! Its just to say, this is when we are going to show you the launch of the mission, and I wanted to watch it live. Then came the moment and one of the channels had corrected the timer to match that of the ISRO launch center and I stayed with the channel. 30…..25….goes a guy at the launch center, and the focus shifts to the tall standing PSLV with 1300 kg payload. But the channel doesn’t help my curiosity. Bottom part of the screen is covered with flashy “Breaking News” saying “Raj Thakeray spends night in Jail”. Above that is a smaller strip with scrolling headlines, most of which was India’s victory over Australia. Left half of the remaining is our news presenter. Part of the remaining is the flashing countdown. And the “whole” of the rest, is our PSLV ready to launch. This was too much for my 21 inch machine to handle. I still stayed with it, and 10..9..8……3..2..1..0 and there it was, the blast caused by the burning of the solid propellants was visible in that small window as well. I was waiting for a spectacular sight of a rocket launching itself in and out of the atmosphere leaving behind a massive tail of the burnt fuel. But the sight was more than disappointing. The launch was successful, but 2 seconds after the man yelled “0”, the rocket vanished in the thick clouds looming large in the before sunrise sky. My eyes were wide open and the news channel took some pity and provided few extra pixels for the visual but it did not help. All I saw after this was blinking dots on the screen depicting the trajectory of the rocket and its current position and some animated depiction of what the rocket would do in the coming months.

Yeah, the Hollywood style NASA celebration did take place. Our own ISRO put India’s name in one of the 68 moon missions so far. It is not as bad considering that 62 of them came from US and USSR. Great, I watched the Chandra-yawn and went back to sleep and decided to watch Bruce Willis’ Armageddon in the evening to see a spectacular rocket launch.

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