At home among the stars
Sir — The front page and the supplement, Look, of The Telegraph last Sunday carried two very contrasting news and article. The ironic association between the two was difficult to overlook. On the one hand, the front page was full of news of the world mourning for India’s brave daughter, Kalpana Chawla, who met with a sad end in the crash of Columbia (“Kalpana lives her dream till the end”) ; on the other hand, there was the story of Ayaldas Hemnani (“Bride and prejudice”) who teaches would-be brides the virtues of “suffering, sacrifice and tolerance”. When will the likes of Hemnani and Ekta Kapoor — the goddess of K-serials — realize that the Indian woman today is not prepared to kill her “self” to satisfy the whims of some people caught in a horrible time warp' And why not, when women like Chawla have shown them that it is actually possible to aim higher than the stars' Respect for elders and family values are indeed appreciable, but not striving to realize one’s full potential is not merely a folly, but also a crime.
Shubhadeep Das, Calcutta
Sir — Missions into outer space are always fraught with danger, but on return they also bring with them an immense wealth of experience and knowledge which works to the benefit of mankind. Sadly, the Columbia crash took away, apart from the lives of seven astronauts, their enriched experience and valuable findings which would have helped further research and development. But I am certain that space missions will learn their lessons from the Columbia mishap and take strength from the courage of the seven dead astronauts.
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur
Sir — I find it funny that Indians are so obsessed with an “American”, Kalpana Chawla. She dumped her Indian citizenship for an American one and married an American. What could be the reason for Indians to be proud of her' Do Indians really lack heroes'
Sourav Ghosh, Pittsburgh, US
Sir — Kalpana Chawla is most suited to be awarded with the Neerja Bhanot award for bravery. The Union government can also consider some national honour for Chawla, besides instituting an award in her memory to motivate girl students to think and dream high like her.
Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Delhi
Sir — Had the scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration taken the help of astrologers in choosing an auspicious day and time for the landing, they would never have chosen an inauspicious amavasya (new moon day) for the landing. Who knows, this ancient Indian science could have helped save the lives of seven brilliant astronauts.
Shyam Sunder Sadani, Calcutta
Sir — Many experts have concluded that the Columbia disaster could have been caused by the faulty angle at which the space shuttle entered the atmosphere. The imperfect angle might have made the spacecraft bend sideways or exposed its belly to the direction in which it was heading. Thus, a great amount of heat was generated due to air friction, which caused the blowing up of the spacecraft into several pieces. It is well-known that its wings and the tail are used to move an aircraft vertically and sideways. It was reported on the first day after the lunch that one of the wings was damaged while the space shuttle was lifting off. NASA authorities considered it to be a minor one. Now, when experts are blaming the explosion on the faulty angle which was in all probability caused by the wings, the inquiry should be focussed on whether the “minor” damage to the wing was actually a major one.
When they came to know about the damage to the wing, the NASA authorities should have called off the mission. The booster rockets should have been detached and dropped in the ocean, the fuel tanks also emptied in the ocean and the space shuttle called back at a much lower height to glide and land. In my opinion, NASA authorities took a huge risk, considering the money, prestige, time and energy involved in the mission to be more important than the lives of the seven astronauts.
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta
Sir — The tragedy of Columbia space shuttle cut short the lives of seven bright young men and women who had taken science to new frontiers. India- born Kalpana Chawla is among them. She has done a lot more for India’s image abroad than the Hindutva-mongers. Indians should draw inspiration from the achievements of Chawla and channelize their energies to the path of social and scientific progress of their country. Only then will they lift themselves up and join the developed world.
H. Kalsi, New Jersey, US
Sir — Especially after the sad end to Columbia’s mission, the president of the United States of America, George W. Bush, should keep his agenda of invading Iraq on hold. Not only would this improve his image in the international political arena, but will also give Saddam Hussein time to cooperate with the United Nations.
R. Sekar, Angul
Sir — The Columbia crash brings to my mind an incident which occurred at my workplace on the fateful day, February 1, 2003. As region in-charge of a financial service sector institution, I was conducting a meeting with my colleagues in our Calcutta office. We were discussing sending a temporary replacement for two weeks to our office in Jharkhand, where the person in-charge had resigned recently.
One of my colleagues, who is always vocal about his capabilities, was requested to go to Jharkhand, a mere four hours journey by train from Calcutta, for two weeks. He responded promptly: “What is the guarantee that I will come back after two weeks'”.
Later that night, as I learnt the fate of the Columbia mission, I wondered whether Kalpana Chawla and her colleagues had ever bothered to ask this question.
Let us learn from these true patriots how to carry out our responsibilities before asking “What is the guarantee that I will come back'”
Arup S. Bagchi, Calcutta
Sir — American space missions have met with more accidents than Russian missions. This is perhaps because Americans tend to leave some things to chance. One of the Apollo missions had to have a rescue operation. Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry'
Shiv Shanker Almal, Calcutta
Sir — Astronomical societies should consider naming a constellation after the astronauts who died aboard Columbia minutes before coming home to their ultimate glory.
Rajiv Dhall, Calcutta