As they monitor a heap of numbers on computer screens and murmur tech lingo on hotlines, Indian space scientists are certain that their first attempt to fathom the Moon would prove to be exceptional.
Chandrayaan-I, all set for an outing on October 22 to scan the lunarscape, will help generate “totally new and better information” about the Earth’s closest celestial neighbour than that carried home by astronauts, says Mylswamy Annadurai, the Project Director.
For this 50-year-old engineer and about 30 colleagues at the Mission Control Centre (MCC) at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on this island, the numbers on their screens signal that test commands to various ground systems linked to Chandrayaan-I and the rocket, an upgrade of the workhorse, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), induce the appropriate responses.
“I think our readiness review is as elaborate as the one done by NASA,” says Annadurai.
There’s much camaraderie as the scientists double-check all systems ahead of the final countdown, scheduled for Monday. Some of them are either classmates or from the same place or have shared the MCC during previous launches.
“We are like one family. Dathan (Director of the Space Centre here) and I are classmates. Many of us have graduated from the same college,” says K Radhakrishnan, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram.
All of them are modest about the “small step”, although this effort would catapult ISRO into an exclusive group of space-faring organisations.