Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chandrayaan keeps a low profile

Government bodies are often bags of wind. Not that I'm trying to defame our major achievements in space technology, but could someone please explain why the center is so muted on the launch of Chandrayaan, scheduled for April?


We go trumpeting about ambitious schedules but refuse to offer public notices about slippages. The media goes ga-ga over the initial hype but fails to keep the public informed about delays and failures. We swell with pride over promised national glory but suffer selective amnesia when they're not met. Ignorance, it would seem, is what out populace dwells upon.


A little probing today unearthed the disappointing truth: Chandrayaan is scheduled for launch no sooner that the end of this year...and that's only tentative. It was only two months ago that an ISRO scientist categorically stated that the April schedule would have to be pushed no further than mid-year.


The most pathetic joke (that I'm aware of) that the GoI played on the masses was about claiming that the GMRT was the world's most powerful radio telescope operational at the meter wavelength. That may be technically true, but analyze the severe restriction and you'll realize what an impotent tool we've built. It's akin to constructing an optical telescope that cannot be directed...you've got to see whatever comes your way! To make matters worse, these ill-educated bunch of nominal scientists had to further curtail the operability of the telescope (by half) when mobile telephony came to India, because of interference. I must confess, though, that it's been years since I learnt of this compromise and it's possible that alternative arrangements have been put into place now.


Here's a personal anecdote. I was briefly a member of Jyotirvidya Parisanstha (India's oldest amateur astronomy club) during the late '90s. An item in their monthly newsletter bewildered me. It was about the club being mentioned in a CD of amateur astronomy clubs being compiled in the US!! This was worthy of news???!!! In that case all of my designer briefs should make it to the cover of Vogue!


Afterthought: Have I been too harsh on GMRT and ISRO? Correct me if I'm wrong. Just for the record, I'm very proud of these national assets. They easily dwarf most (if not all) of our other achievements.


Anonymous said...

I guess you have every right to keep the organisation on its toes. At the same time, within ISRO you will find some of the best and worst. Having worked closely with them for some of their future satellite antenna tests, I was both pained and awed to see that the scientist we were working with had the energy to battle miles of bureaucracy.

Deepanjan said...

Agreed. The-best-of-the-breed suffer in silence as the countless imbeciles run amok.

I see the ISRO shuttle plying everyday. I just wish I could be seated within!