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CU sets sights on the moon
- Spacecraft project signals launch of lunar research on campus

Calcutta University (CU) should be over the moon. With the Centre recently announcing the launch of its Moon Mission Project — sending the first Indian spacecraft to the moon by 2008 — the university has begun an exercise to start research projects to strengthen studies in lunar science, lunar mechanics and lunar technology.

According to Dilip Sinha, CU’s Rashbehari Ghosh professor in applied mathematics and a former vice-chancellor of Visva-Bharati, the researches will be conducted on the campus as a part of the Centre’s proposed mission to the earth’s only satellite.

Sinha, who has returned to the city after attending a meeting with the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) on the implementation of the project, said a large number of studies on lunar topography, physical elements and lunar geology will be conducted by Isro.

The Isro has approached the university for participation of the institution’s students and scientists in the process. The researches to be conducted by the CU will be a component of the main project.

“Isro has shown keen interest in involving students and scientists of Calcutta University, as well as from other institutions in Bengal, for sensitising them to the proposed project. We are waiting for the final clearance from them (Isro). We will start working on the schemes as soon as we get the formal letter from them,” said Sinha.

He was one of the invitees to the national-level conference organised by the central government in Delhi in April to discuss the launch of the project.

The launch of Chandrayan I, in 2008, was announced by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Independence Day in his address to the nation from the Red Fort ramparts.

According to Sinha, the proposed studies will provide an opportunity for the university to expand its research activities in an uncharted area. “As far as teaching of lunar science is concerned, CU has so far dealt with only topics on lunar dynamics. Our involvement in the Moon Mission Project will give an opportunity to the university to start teaching advanced subjects, like lunar topography and lunar geology,” he said.

CU teachers are happy with the Isro offer, as most of the existing topics on lunar science being taught at the post-graduate level now are “redundant”.

“The existing syllabi were framed at a time when satellite observations on the earth and moon had not taken place,” said a teacher. The space research organisation will foot all the upgrading bills.

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