The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Science plus faith beat odds
- Satellites defy ‘Sun, rain & wind’

Sriharikota, May 5: Flush with the success of today’s launch, the Indian Space Research Organisation feels there is no conflict between faith and science.

Reacting to reports that Isro chief G. Madhavan Nair prayed before the reigning deity of the famous Tirupati-Tirumala temple on Tuesday, a spokesman for the agency said the practice of seeking divine blessings before a launch was neither new nor wrong.

'Even past chairmen of Isro, including Dr K. Kasturirangan, have sought the lord’s blessings before a launch,' he said. Nair could not be reached for his comments.

The Isro chief had placed miniature replicas of PSLV C-6, the launch vehicle, and the two satellites with which it blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here before Lord Balaji, the reigning deity of the temple, about 140 km from the launch pad.

The spokesman, however, clarified that it was not the chairman who placed the models at the feet of the lord. It is usually one of the accompanying scientists who do it, he added.

'Ninety-nine per cent you do whatever is scientifically possible to make the mission successful, but there is always a 1 per cent uncertainty. So it is only a normal, human psychological feeling to pray for the success of any launch,' the spokesman said.

Uncertainty there was. But two days of thunderstorms could not stop the 'workhorse' from blasting off from the new Rs 400-crore launch pad, designed by the Ranchi-based Mecon.

At 10.15 this morning, the 44-metre-high PSLV C-6 roared into the sky in a plume of purple smoke as Isro sent two satellites into orbit in a single vehicle for the first time in its 30-year launch history.

The take-off, from the spaceport here in Andhra Pradesh, ended a tense run-up because of unpredictable weather and debris of old satellites in the orbit that could have come in the way.

'It is a highly heartening and successful mission,' Nair told a news conference. 'We were working against all odds ' sun, rain and wind.' The sudden spotting of some space debris, he said, also added to their worries.

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who watched the launch from the control room, walked up to Nair, shook hands and hugged him.

The high-tech Cartosat-1, carried by the indigenous PSLV rocket, Isro’s workhorse, signals a milestone in India’s space efforts. The 1,560-kg satellite, the heaviest payload the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle has launched so far, will help track every house and street in the sprawling nation, sources said.

It will beam back to earth stations three-dimensional pictures of valleys, hills, riverbeds and other surface features required for urban planning, Nair said.

The second satellite ' the 42.5 kg Hamsat ' is Isro’s first 'theme-based satellite', said project director J.P. Gupta. A very small satellite, it is India’s contribution to the international community of amateur radio operators.

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