Of Mars

India has successfully launched a Mars Mission. Search Google for “MOM” (Mars Orbiter Mission) or “Mangalyaan”, if you do not know what’s going on.

I am proud about the effort of the scientists at ISRO (India’s Space Agency). I do not understand much of the science about it (apart from what is commonsensical). My sense of pride is more national and ISRO-specific, than anything else. Since the success of launching the Orbiter in the Martian orbit, there have been many responses — mostly positive and celebratory. Some, without doubt, cynical.

I have nothing to say to the cynics. Free country and all that.

Yet, at the time when the Orbiter was out of range for 20-odd minutes, not knowing if it was successful, if your heart did not race, you have missed an experience. Imagination has much to do with the reality of our lives. And without any milestones that help mark our imagination, our journeys will be truncated. We will have no markers that guide us to the unmarked futures of where we think we can be.

In my head, this successful space adventure is less about space and science. It is more about the ability of what we are capable of. What did ISRO demonstrate? A low-cost venture? An experimental odyssey? A capability demonstration? Well, all the above, and much more. They demonstrated grit and determination.

One of the most endearing aspect of this launch was the camaraderie between two space agencies on the opposite sides of the world. NASA and ISRO. Progress is the mechanism of push and pull. Scientists will want to push it forward; everyone else will pull it back. And here, the scientist is not the Ph. D. working at ISRO, it is you and me.

We have to extract more from the successful launch of the MOM than the successful launch itself. My meaning won’t make sense to you perhaps, so find out what it means for you.

With due respect I salute all the folks who were involved in the MOM and congratulate them for this wondrous accomplishment. It is unfortunate that the real heroes and heroines are nameless people in labs; yet, to each one of you, I bow with sincere gratitude and respect.

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Shibboleth - 1

There’s a lot of not-so-nice-things that happen in this country. That’s reality. It is unfortunate that, when there is a corruption scam, all the news channels seek out all the unsavoury folks for a news bite. Negative reporting = sensationalism. The reporters of these channels now find no excitement in a wondrous event. “What if it fails” was on the top agenda. An achievement that belonged to a scientific institution was usurped by politicians invited by the news channels. That’s how deep their negativity is rooted. Rather than be a source of pride; there were debates of credit. The DNA of our news agencies has been infected by the minus-virus. They are unable to see anything positive or nice. In the garb of objective reporting; they are depressing a powerful nation.

If any politician wants to know why a country of more than a billion automatically thinks of them as villian, there is no better time.

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The next time, I say “Jaya he” (a phrase in India’s national anthem); it will also include you, my dear scientists.

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