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5 Things That You Should Definitely Know About India’s Mission To Mars

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By Rajkanya Mahapatra:

When the nation is grappling with issues such as widespread poverty, malnutrition, abnormal sex ratios, the devaluating rupee, corruption and incessant cases of all forms of heinous crimes, what reason are we left with to be proud of our country? Do we have absolutely any lines up our sleeve that can be readily darted at innocently ignorant outsiders when they ask us what is it that our country has done in the recent past that we can say we are proud of? Well, looks like a 1000 strong team of scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation have taken care of that. ‘Mangalyaan’ as it has been popularly or informally named or the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is all set to be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Center SHAR, Sriharikota on November 5th at 14:36 hrs IST. Here is a list of 5 things you ought to know about ‘Mangalyaan’

mars

1. That coveted fourth spot is ours!

The Indian Space Research Organisation will be the fourth space agency in the world (if the mission is successful) after NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), the ESA (European Space Agency) and the ROSCOSMOS (Russian Federal Space Agency) to send a spacecraft to the Red Planet.

After the kind of success that Chandrayaan—1 achieved in 2008, high hopes have been pinned on the Mars Orbiter for it promises to take India a step ahead in the study of deep space research. Also, if this mission is successful (the scientists at ISRO are very certain it will be) the world will be forced to sit up and take notice of the increasing capability of the country to carry out such ambitious interplanetary missions. We are also likely to win brownie points with this mission as it will give us a strong position in the ongoing Asian Space Race.

2. MENCA will tell us ‘Kya hai aur kitna hai!’

I remember that Maruti Suzuki advertisement where the customers keep asking ‘kitna deti hai?’ and how India is obsessed with mileage and more importantly hard core quantitative facts. Only numbers satiate our curiosity and affects our judgment when we analyse things like cricket, the share market or well, rocket science. Although it would be difficult to get to know what the orbiter’s mileage is since it is travelling a good 400 million kms., the scientists have done a great job at inventing something as useful as MENCA (Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser) which will for the first time map the densities and compositions of lighter atoms like helium, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon 200 kms above the surface of Mars. It will be a huge step towards getting to know the atmosphere around the planet.

3. NALANDA is the cause for delay.

Earlier the probe was to have been launched on October 28, but due to bad weather in the Pacific, it has been delayed for a week. Two ships, Yamuna and Nalanda, have been deployed to Fiji to track the spacecraft after it has been launched. Yamuna has already reached Fiji but weather has delayed Nalanda. These ships will be carrying powerful radars to monitor the rocket, since it would be cruising at altitudes not reachable by the ground stations for close to 20 minutes. These ships will play a crucial role in relaying important information about the spacecraft’s condition after it has been launched. Once the probe is in outer space it will be monitored by ISRO’s space tracking facility at Bayalalu in Karnataka.

4. Deimos and Phobos? A Picture Please?

Another instrument that is a highlight of the five instruments that constitutes the payload of the spacecraft is the MCC or the Mars Color Camera which is a tri colour camera that gives images and information about the surface features and compositions of the Martian surface. They will be useful in monitoring the weather on Mars. MCC will be most importantly used to probe the two satellites of the Red Planet — Phobos and Deimos.

 

The MOM is also going to be looking for Methane on the exosphere or the outer atmosphere of Mars with the help of the MSM (Methane Sensors for Mars). Although NASA’s ‘Curiosity’ has denied the presence of Methane, therefore any forms of life, on the planet last year. The scientists at ISRO are optimistic and say that they are going to look at Mars differently than ‘Curiosity’.

5. Is it a good time?

An entire debate has circled the mission since the parliament granted an amount of 450 crores for this ambitious project. Activists have been harsh critics stating that India needs to prioritize as a country and use such huge sums of money for something more important like poverty alleviation and improving poor infrastructure. The country had to face one of the worse power crisis in the past decade in 2012 for a good 48 hours when the amount for this project was granted in the parliament inviting sufficient wrath to stall the project. ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan defended the costs, according to him his organisation represents only one-third of 1% of the national budget, and of that budget only 7-8% is used for scientific and planetary exploration. Scientists have defended the mission by saying that 450 crores is not a huge sum of money and can definitely not act as a panacea to the ever growing number of poor people in the country plus India needs to advance in fields like space and technology as it is the aspiration for any developing third world country.

According to me, we should all take pride in the fact that the country is ready to launch its first inter planetary mission which will embark upon a 300 day long journey. When countries like the US have spent as much as 2.5 billion dollars on ‘Curiosity’ and ‘Maven’ is all set to be launched. We have to notice that we have spent around 75 million on MOM and according to scientists it is the cheapest inter planetary mission and any other country would have spent five times more. Bringing in issues of poverty and infrastructure and wanting to draw funds from other fields is but one way to hide major discrepancies in the existing system. Huge sums of money are allocated every year to battle poverty, the culprits however have not been poverty but faulty administration and implementation that couldn’t produce desired results. It is important to develop holistically, let’s not say ‘what is the hurry to go to Mars?’, let’s say – Aryabhata was a small step taken 38 years ago and what it did to Indian Space Research. We know that from ATMs to predicting natural hazards to communication, everything that Indian satellites do today have been possible because of that one step taken in 1975. We can afford 450 crores for an interplanetary mission, what we cannot afford is pessimism and procrastination.

You must be to comment.
  1. Saurabh Gandhi

    Add to that the fact that money spent here will not go wasted and it will showcase Indian science’s capability, along with giving a fillip to it!

  2. Kapoor Ajay

    Definitely a well written article. Kudos! High time we start identifying charade of these corrupt politicians. Development, scientific and social, should go hand in hand. The balance will be judges as actual development, not mere poverty alleviation or empowerment.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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