The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
15-minute journey to the centre of the sun
- Outer space trip for solar power tips

A trip to the sun and back, in 15 minutes, for Rs 40, with stops on the moon and planets Mars, Mercury and Venus. It’s a rough ride, but then, a sojourn in space is not always smooth. Bumpy asteroids and flying comets apart, streaking across the starlit sky in a space shuttle is an experience that not just excites, but also educates, particularly the fertile mind of a child. The lesson — the power of solar energy.

A journey to the sun’s core on a spacecraft is the newest offering at Energy Park, on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. Two years and four lakh visitors later, the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) park is once again setting trends, after becoming the first such energy park in the country. “We have helped Delhi set up a similar park, and are doing the same in Pune. And now, we have letters from the Karnataka, Maharashtra and Delhi governments, urging us to set up this ‘journey-to-the-sun’ concept,” says P.P. Gon Chaudhuri, director, WBREDA.

The ride is in a capsule, with a screen at the front, which acts as the window to the outside world, where the mysteries of the universe unfold. It takes off from a space station, in a city completely powered by solar energy. As the platform the vehicle is on moves around, through a hydraulic system, the passengers are transported into outer space, while the geography of the moon and the planets is explained. The purpose, though, is to focus on the physics, and chemistry, of the sun, and the surround sound proves effective in explaining the celestial body’s inner workings, which, although explosive, is the basis of life on earth.

The Rs 92-lakh project has been two years in the making, and is funded, and created, by several individuals and organisations. Apart from WBREDA, finances were also provided by film-maker Mrinal Sen, local area MLA Rabin Deb, MLA Dipankar Mukherjee and the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics. The hardware was provided by Premier Funtech, a company providing ride simulations and virtual experiences. While the script was written by director Gon Chaudhuri, the filming was accomplished by Three Access, although the synchronisation of the video with the movements took a trip to the UK, and the construction was by Angel India.

Present at the inauguration of the ride on Monday were chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, mayor Subrata Mukherjee, Sunderbans minister Kanti Ganguly and power minister Mrinal Bandopadhyay, amongst others. Speaking about his ride in the capsule, Bhattacharjee announced: “It was quite amazing. I never thought I would ever be able to go to the sun. But it’s even more astounding that I actually made it back alive.”

Adding that his dream was to take electricity, preferably through alternative sources, to Jhargram, the Sunderbans and the remote areas of Darjeeling, he said: “The science of solar power, which although I don’t understand very much, is important, because alternative energy is the future and the way forward, be it wind, water, solar or even nuclear. They are environment-friendly. So, people should be taught about the issue.”

So, all you aspiring astronauts, if you’re aged between eight and 80, get your ticket, take your seat and fasten your seatbelt for a journey to the centre of the sun. Well, almost.

Email This Page