Category Archives: Sciences

The women scientists who took India into space

Source Story : BBC – Written by Geeta Pandey

From left: Ritu Karidhal, Anuradha TK and Nandini Harinath

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Ritu Karidhal, Nandini Harinath, Anuradha TK – Scientists at ISRO

Two years ago, as Indian scientists successfully put a satellite into orbit around Mars, a photograph that went viral showed women dressed in gorgeous saris with flowers in their hair celebrating at the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) in the southern city of Bangalore.

It was reported that the ecstatic women were scientists and the photograph challenged the stereotype that rocket science in India was a male preserve.

Isro later clarified that the celebrating women were administrative staff, but it went on to add that there indeed were several women scientists who had worked on the mission and were in the control room at the time of the launch.

The BBC’s Geeta Pandey recently travelled to Bangalore to meet some of the women who have taken India into space.

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Ritu Karidhal, Deputy Operations Director, Mars Orbiter Mission

Ritu KaridhalImage copyrightASIF SAUD

As a little girl growing up in the northern Indian city of Lucknow, Ms Karidhal was an avid sky watcher who “used to wonder about the size of the moon, why it increases and decreases. I wanted to know what lay behind the dark spaces”.

A student of science who loved physics and maths, she scoured the daily newspapers for information about Nasa and Isro projects, collected news clippings, and read every little detail about anything related to space science.

After getting her postgraduate degree, “I applied for a job at Isro and that’s how I became a space scientist”, she says.

It’s now been 18 years and Ms Karidhal has worked on several projects at Isro, including the prestigious Mars mission, which has thrust her and her colleagues into the limelight.

Isro staff celebrate Mars missionImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThis photograph of Isro administration staff celebrating the Mars mission went viral

The mission began in April 2012 and the scientists only had 18 months to capture Mars.

“It was a very small window, so the big challenge was to realise the project in that time. We had no heritage of interplanetary missions, so we had a lot to do in that short period.”

Although women scientists were part of the mission right from the time of conception, Ms Karidhal says its success was due to the team effort.

“We used to sit with the engineers, everyone would brainstorm, irrespective of the time, we often worked the weekends.

A mother of two young children, Ms Karidhal says it was not easy to maintain a work-life balance but “I got the support I needed from my family, my husband and my siblings”.

India's Mars missionImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe Mars mission was India’s first interplanetary mission

“At the time, my son was 11 and my daughter was five. We had to multi-task, manage time better, but I think that even when I was exhausted at work, I’d go home and see my children and spend time enjoying with them, and I’d feel better and they would also like it.”

It’s often said that “men are from Mars while women are from Venus” but following the success of the Mars mission, many dubbed India’s women scientists the “women from Mars”.

“I am a woman from earth, an Indian woman who got an amazing opportunity,” Ms Karidhal says.

“Mars mission was an achievement, but we need to do a lot more. The country needs a lot more from us so that the benefit reaches the last man.”

And who better than women scientists to do that?

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Nandini Harinath, Deputy Operations Director, Mars Orbiter Mission

Nandini HarinathImage copyrightASIF SAUD

Ms Harinath’s first exposure to science was Star Trek on television.

“My mother is a maths teacher and my father is an engineer with a great liking for physics and as a family we were all so fond of Star Trek and science fiction and we would sit together and watch it on TV.”

Of course, at the time, she never thought of becoming a space scientist and for her, Isro “just happened”.

“It was the first job I applied for and I got through. It’s been 20 years now and there’s been no looking back.”

Being part of the Mars mission was a high point of her life.

“It was very important for India, not just for Isro. It’s put us on a different pedestal, foreign countries are looking at us for collaborations and the importance and attention we got was justified.

The new 2,000 rupee noteImage copyrightAFP
Image caption“The government recognised the mission, and there’s no bigger honour than that”

“It was also the first time Isro allowed the public to look at what was happening inside, we were on social media, we had our own Facebook page, and the world took notice.

“I feel proud of our achievement. Sometimes, I feel honoured and flattered, but sometimes I’m also embarrassed,” she says, laughing. “But now the way people look at you, it’s very different. People recognise you for being a scientist. And I’m enjoying it thoroughly.”

Ms Harinath says she takes “immense pride” in Mangalyan and was “really thrilled” to see it’s photograph on the new 2,000 rupee notes.

But it was not an easy assignment and the work days were long.

In the beginning, the scientists worked about 10 hours a day, but as the launch date came closer, it went up to 12 to 14 hours.

Isro scientists and engineers monitor the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) in Bangalore on November 27, 2013Image copyrightAFP
Image captionThe scientists on the Mars mission worked long hours to meet their deadlines

“During the launch, I don’t think we went home at all. We’d come in the morning, spend the day and night, probably go home for a short time the next afternoon to eat and sleep for a few hours and come back. But for an important mission like that which is time bound, we needed to work like that.

“We spent many sleepless nights. We encountered lots of problems as we progressed, in the design as well as in the mission. But it was coming up with quick solutions, innovation that was brought in that was key.”

To make matters worse, her daughter’s crucial school leaving exams fell right in the middle of the mission.

“Those few months were very demanding at work and at home. It looked like a race at the time. I’d wake up at 4am with my daughter to give her company while she studied. But now, we look back on that time with fondness. She did extremely well in her exams, scoring 100 in maths. Today, she’s in medical school and is doing really well so I think it was all worth the effort.”

I ask if we can call her the “woman from Mars”.

“I want to be grounded to earth. It’s important to remain so, to bring out the best in a person,” she says.

“The Mars mission was a huge achievement, but that’s past now. We need to look into the future, to see what more we can do. We have the entire cosmic neighbourhood waiting to be explored. There are so many planets, so it’s time to venture out.”

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Anuradha TK, Geosat Programme Director at Isro Satellite Centre

Anuradha TKImage copyrightASIF SAUD

For this senior-most woman officer at Isro, the sky is the limit – she specialises in sending communication satellites into space that sit at least 36,000km from the earth’s centre.

The scientist who has worked with Isro for the past 34 years first thought about space when she was nine.

“It was the Apollo launch, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. We had no television in those days, so I heard about it from my parents and teachers. It really ignited the imagination. I wrote a poem on a man landing on the moon in Kannada, my native language.”

Considered a role model by other women scientists at Isro, Ms Anuradha disagrees that women and science don’t gel.

“I never liked subjects where I needed to remember a lot and science looked logical to me. I don’t believe that Indian girls think science is not meant for them and I think maths is their favourite subject.”

A father and daughter look at a Mars poster at the Nehru Planetarium as a special preview on India's maiden Mars Mission, in Bangalore on September 23, 2014Image copyrightAFP
Image captionMs Anuradha believes that there is nothing holding girls back from science

When she joined Isro in 1982, there were only a few women and even fewer in its engineering department.

“In my batch, five-six women engineers joined Isro. We stood out and everyone knew us. Today, more than 20-25% of Isro’s over 16,000 employees are women and we no longer feel special,” she laughs.

At Isro, she says, gender is not an issue and the recruitment and promotional policies are all dependent on “what we know and what we contribute”.

“Sometimes I say that I forget that I’m a woman here. You don’t get any special treatment because you’re a woman, you’re also not discriminated against because you’re a woman. You’re treated as an equal here.”

She laughs at the suggestion that her colleagues consider her an inspiration, but agrees that having more women in workplace can be a motivating factor for other women.

“Once girls see that there are lots of women in the space programme, they also get motivated, they think if she can do it, so can they.”

Indians celebrate Mars missionImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe Mars mission has been an enormous source of national pride in India

Although the numbers of women staff has been consistently growing at Isro, it is still way below the halfway mark.

That’s because “we are still carrying cultural loads on our backs and many women think their priorities lie elsewhere, at home”, she says.

Her advice to women who want to be rocket scientists is simple: “make arrangements”.

“Once I had made up my mind that I needed a purposeful career where my passion lay, I created a good set up at home. My husband and my parents-in-law were always cooperative, so I didn’t have to worry much about my children.

“And I owe my success to the arrangements I made. You have to give something to get something. But life is like that. So when there was work to do, when I was needed at the office, I was here, working with passion. And when there was an absolute need for me to be at home, I was there.”



ISRO Successfully Launches 104 Satellites in a Single Flight – PSLV-C37

Feb 15th, 2017

In its thirty ninth flight (PSLV-C37), ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle successfully launched the 714 kg Cartosat-2 Series Satellite along with 103 co-passenger satellites today morning (February 15, 2017) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. This is the thirty eighth consecutively successful mission of PSLV.  The total weight of all the 104 satellites carried on-board PSLV-C37 was 1378 kg.

PSLV-C37 lifted off at 0928 hrs (9:28 am) IST, as planned, from the First Launch Pad.  After a flight of  16 minutes 48 seconds, the satellites achieved a polar Sun Synchronous Orbit of 506 km inclined at an angle of 97.46 degree to the equator (very close to the intended orbit) and in the succeeding 12 minutes, all the 104 satellites successfully separated from the PSLV fourth stage in a predetermined sequence beginning with Cartosat-2 series satellite, followed by INS-1 and INS-2.  The total number of Indian satellites launched by PSLV now stands at 46.

After separation, the two solar arrays of Cartosat-2 series satellite were deployed automatically and ISRO’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bangalore took over the control of the satellite. In the coming days, the satellite will be brought to its final operational configuration following which it will begin to provide remote sensing services using its panchromatic (black and white) and multispectral (colour) cameras.

Of the 103 co-passenger satellites carried by PSLV-C37, two – ISRO Nano Satellite-1 (INS-1) weighing 8.4 kg and INS-2 weighing 9.7 kg – are technology demonstration satellites from India.

The remaining 101 co-passenger satellites carried were international customer satellites from USA (96), The Netherlands (1), Switzerland (1), Israel (1), Kazakhstan (1) and UAE (1).

With today’s successful launch, the total number of customer satellites from abroad launched by India’s workhorse launch vehicle PSLV has reached 180.

ISRO Crosses 50 International Customer Satellite Launch Mark

With the successful launch of PSLV-C30 carrying six foreign customer satellites (one each from Indonesia and Canada and four nano satellites from the USA) along with India’s Multi Wavelength Astronomical Observatory ASTROSAT, ISRO crossed the 50 international customer satellite launch mark. All the 51 satellites from abroad launched by India so far have been placed in orbit by India’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). During 1994-2015 period, PSLV has launched a total of 84 satellites of which 51 are for international customers.

Though PSLV was designed to launch Indian remote sensing satellites into polar sun synchronous orbit, the vehicle has repeatedly proved its reliability and versatility by successfully launching satellites into a variety of orbits including polar Sun Synchronous, Geosynchronous Transfer and Low Earth orbits of small inclination, thereby repeatedly proving the robustness of its design.

ISRO offers launch services to the international customers through PSLV. ISRO entered the commercial launch services market by launching KITSAT-3 of Republic of Korea and DLR-TUBSAT of Germany along with IRS-P4 (OCEANSAT) onboard PSLV-C2 on May 26, 1999. So far, International customers satellites from 20 countries (Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and USA) have been successfully launched by PSLV during 15 of its launches.

Antrix Corporation Limited (Antrix), incorporated in 1992, a wholly owned Government of India Company under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS) and the commercial arm of ISRO has already entered into a number of agreements for launching satellites for international customers onboard PSLV. Antrix promotes and commercially exploits the products and services emanating from the Indian Space Programme. In addition to providing launch services for international customer satellites, Antrix provisions communication satellite transponders for broadcasting and telecommunication services, markets data from Indian Remote Sensing(IRS) satellites, builds and markets satellites and satellites subsystems and extends mission support services for satellite launches.

The outlook for commercial launches is promising for ISRO/Antrix with many other proposals from international customers under active discussion and consideration.

Gold worth Rs 186 crore missing from Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala

In a startling revelation, the Vinod Rai committee special audit report on Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, stated that a lot of financial irregularities and corruption is going on in the temple administration and gold worth Rs 186 crore have gone missing.

According to sources, the report by former Comptroller and Auditor general Vinod Rai are in two volumes and five parts running into 1,000 pages. The Supreme Court had asked Rai in October 2015 to complete the audit and submit its report.

This directive came on the recommendations of amicus curiae and senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, who had sought overhauling of the functioning of the temple.

The report states that there is a loss of 263 gold on the name of purification and states that gold worth Rs 186 crore in the form of 769 gold pots are not traceable.

Rai, in his report, has recommended a committee probe to oversee these irregularities.

“Gold worth Rs 2.50 crore was lost because of change in ratio adopted for purification.

Moreover, the residual quantity of gold was not recovered from the contractor which lead to a loss of Rs 59 lakhs,” sources said.

“There was a lack of transparency in Kanikka counting. Gold and silver worth Rs 14.18 lakh had not been entered in the Nadavarav register, which is illegal,” according to the report.

“Silver bar with value of Rs 14 lakh was found to be missing,” the report said.

The temple trust illegally sold 2.11 acres of land in 1970 and no records were found.

The report also expressed surprise over the sudden increase of expenditure in temple management over several years and termed it as “abnormal”.

The committee has also recommended major changes in the temple administration system and suggested that it should now be a seve-member committee headed by a retired section-level officer, tantric, two prominent citizens, representative of state and the royal family.

The report also suggested major changes in the temple’s security arrangements and said, “Priceless items in the temple should be housed in a modern museum and security installments need to be altered a bit.”

The audit was done for the financial year 2004-2014.

In July 2011 the apex court committee stumbled upon six vaults in the temple and with just vault B left to be opened. The treasure that has been found in the other five vaults have been estimated to be valued more than Rs 100,000 crore.

Since then, armed security guards, besides state of the art security equipment, have been deployed for the safe upkeep of the treasure


Tejas – Indigenous 4+ Generation Aircraft

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited handed over the first two Tejas aircrafts to Indian Air Force which will make up the ‘Flying Daggers’ 45, the name of the first squadron of the LCA.

India’s first indigenous LCA, which is all set to replace the MiG-21 series, is a result of several years of design and development work by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and HAL.

The aircraft is unique in many aspects . Details


Tejas underwent a series of trials in various conditions for last one decade . This one was at Leh.

Proud of Bharat that is Rising ! नभः स्पृशं दीप्तम्