Gives India platform to go to any planet, could make science pretty cool to kids

Washington | Updated: Sep 25 2014, 14:20pm hrs
MOMSchool children pose for photographs with a poster of Mars Orbiter Mission satellite as they celebrate its success, in Chennai. (AP)
At NASA, we call it the seven minutes of terror: seven minutes refers to the time the spacecraft takes to descend through the Martian atmosphere. During these seven minutes, the spacecraft is on its own: if there is a technical problem during the seven minutes, by the time ground controllers can respond, the spacecraft has already crashed on the surface of Mars.

Although Mangalyaan did not land on Mars, the tension at Mission Control was perceptible and reminded me of the times I have experienced the seemingly unending wait for confirmation of success or failure to arrive from Mars. The jubilation that erupted in the Control Room is similar to the euphoric scenes we experience at Jet Propulsion Lab when a mission is successful. Having being involved with six missions to Mars with NASA, I relived my experience of incredible tension followed by exhilaration through the success of Mangalyaan.

For, it was fascinating to see the reaction outside the Indian Space Research Organisation, the way it seems to have united India: what could have been an esoteric science experiment turned to a national celebration with the Prime Minister in attendance and a nation breaking into applause.

Despite a wide and deep Information Technology sector, India is largely perceived as a destination where work is outsourced because of cheap labour, not because of superior or equivalent capability. Core or critical R&D projects from the West are rarely outsourced to India because of quality and reliability concerns. Mangalyaans success can firmly change that perception. This is largest intangible benefit of the mission. Its success is an instant validation of the fact that India is capable of executing large and complex technology projects.

- Amitabha Ghosh

(Ghosh is a NASA scientist who has worked on six Mars Missions)

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