The Telegraph
Monday , January 7 , 2013
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Budget balloon for star trek

- City researchers match Rs 2cr titan with Rs 2-lakh tool

Giant missiles, rockets, tanks and.... a balloon!

Amidst several multicrore superstars of Indian technology at the mega science expo of the Indian Science Congress’s 100th session, one could have easily missed the humble balloon had there been no crowd of curious students surrounding it.

“We explore the upper reaches of the atmosphere and space with sophisticated instruments borne by these balloons,” said Debashis Bhowmick, one of the engineers who built Dignity, a series of balloons meant for space experiments at the Indian Centre for Space Physics (ICSP), a tiny Garia-based research institute.

As Bhowmick and his fellow researchers — Ankan Das, Arko Chatterjee, Arnab Bhattacharya among others — explained how the balloons measure cosmic rays and gamma rays, study ozone depletion and solar flare, students from different city schools listened spellbound.

No wonder Sandip Chakrabarti, from the S.N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, doffed his hat to Bhowmick and team. “What the ICSP engineers and scientists are doing on such a shoestring budget is commendable. They are launching balloons with sophisticated instruments at a fraction of the cost incurred by NASA or ISRO for similar experiments,” said the mentor for ICSP scientists who has been associated with space exploration at both NASA and ISRO.

The fact about the ICSP team’s achievement is spelt out by the figures — a balloon produced by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) weighs more than 1,000kg and an ICSP one weighs less than 10kg; their balloon costs Rs 2 crore, ours less than Rs 2 lakh!