Memories of the fantastic voyage to the moon on it’s 50th anniversary!

–Lachman Balani

It was the summer of ’69 and I was literally over the moon as I had just graduated from the American School of Tangier, a US secondary school in Tangier, Morocco and was preparing to go to Cornell University in the US for further studies in engineering.

Amidst all the excitement of getting ready for university, another extraordinary event, the imminent moon landing, heightened my adrenalin levels as I was highly interested in science.

Way back in ‘68 and ‘69 when the Russians and Americans were running neck and neck in the race towards the moon, I was actually rooting for the Russians as they were the first to launch the space  satellite Sputnik and the first to put a man, Yuri Gagarin, into orbit. The Soviets were also the first to hard land (unpowered) and soft land (powered) a spacecraft on the moon. The U.S.S.R. was also the first to get photos of the lunar surface.

I would jokingly tell my American friends in school that “the Russians are gonna paint the moon red!”

They would laugh back: “nah, we doubt it, but even if they do, heck when we get there we will spray it white with the Coca Cola logo!”

Such was the ingenuity of American marketing even way back then.

I remember well also that after the “dress rehearsal” Apollo 10 mission in May of the same year, there were rumours that Russia, cloaked in secrecy, would somehow beat the US and send up a manned mission to land on the moon before the upcoming Apollo 11 voyage in July.

However, the great day finally arrived for the Americans. My family and I huddled around the black and white TV on July 16, 1969, to watch history unfurl. With memories of the fire that killed three astronauts in the Apollo 1 mission a couple of years earlier and Neil Armstrong’s near death experience a year earlier still fresh in everyone’s minds, I kept my fingers crossed that nothing drastic would occur as the countdown began. Continue reading “Memories of the fantastic voyage to the moon on it’s 50th anniversary!”

PSLV-C43 successfully launches earth observation satellite HysIS and 30 foreign satellites

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C43) successfully launched 31 satellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) today in Sriharikota.

The PSLV-C43 lifted off at 9:57:30 (IST) from the First Launch Pad and injected India’s Hyper-Spectral Imaging Satellite (HysIS) into a 645 km sun-synchronous polar orbit 17 minutes and 19 seconds after the lift-off. Later, 30 foreign satellites were injected into their intended orbit after restarting the vehicle’s fourth stage engines twice. The last satellite was injected into its designated orbit 1 hour and 49 minutes after the lift-off.

After separation, the two solar arrays of HysIS were deployed automatically and the ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network at Bengaluru gained control of the satellite. The satellite will be brought to its final operational configuration in the next few days. HysIS Project Director Shri Suresh K. said that the satellite is performing normally after the launch.

HysIS is an earth observation satellite built around ISRO’s Mini Satellite2 (IMS-2) bus weighing about 380kg. The mission life of the satellite is five years.

The primary goal of HysIS is to study the earth’s surface in both the visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Data from the satellite will be used for a wide range of applications including agriculture, forestry, soil/geological environments, coastal zones and inland waters, etc. HysIS had the company of one micro and 29 nano-satellites from eight countries, including Australia (1), Canada (1), Columbia (1), Finland (1), Malaysia (1), Netherlands (1), Spain (1) and USA (23). The total weight of these satellites was about 261.50 kg. Satellites from Australia, Columbia, Malaysia and Spain were flown aboard PSLV for the first time. Continue reading “PSLV-C43 successfully launches earth observation satellite HysIS and 30 foreign satellites”

GSLV MkIII-D2 successfully launches GSAT-29

India’s GSAT-29 communication satellite was successfully launched by the second developmental flight of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle MarkIII (GSLV MkIII-D2) on Wednesday, November 14th,  from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota.

GSLV MkIII-D2 lifted off from the Second Launch Pad of SDSC SHAR at 17:08 hours (IST), carrying the 3423-kg GSAT-29 satellite. About 17 minutes later, the vehicle injected the satellite into the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) as planned.

After injection, ISRO’s Master Control Facility at Hassan has assumed the control of the satellite. In the coming days, three orbit raising manoeuvers will be executed to position the satellite in the Geostationary Orbit at its designated location.

GSLV Mk III is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Two massive boosters with solid propellant constitute the first stage, the core with liquid propellant form the second stage and the cryogenic engine completes the final stage.

GSAT-29 is a multiband, multi-beam communication satellite, intended to serve as test bed for several new and critical technologies. Its Ku-band and Ka-band payloads are configured to cater to the communication requirements of users including those from remote areas especially from Jammu & Kashmir and North-Eastern regions of India.

In addition, the Q/V-Band communication payload onboard is intended to demonstrate the future high throughput satellite system technologies. Geo High Resolution Camera will carry out high resolution imaging. Optical Communication Payload will demonstrate data transmission at a very high rate through optical communication link. Continue reading “GSLV MkIII-D2 successfully launches GSAT-29”