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Kalam wants sights set on Mars

By T. Nandakumar

A sounding rocket being launched on Friday from the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the launch of sounding rockets from Thumba. — Photo: S. Mahinsha

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Nov. 21. The President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, today urged India's space scientists to prepare for a manned mission to Mars. In a teleconference from New Delhi on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Indian sounding rockets and space sciences, celebrated at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) here, he said that data generated through a lunar mission could be used to complete the Mars mission.

The President called upon scientists to orient their work towards eliminating poverty. One among the core team of scientists involved in the first launch of a Nike Apache sounding rocket from the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station in 1963, Mr. Kalam said he cherished memories of that day.

Inaugurating the celebrations, G. Madhavan Nair, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), said that India's lunar mission `Chandrayan', would become a reality in four years with an orbiting payload mapping the moon's surface. He said the moon mission would look for useful elements on the lunar surface in an attempt to throw light on the origins of the universe.

Mr. Madhavan Nair said ISRO was aware of the challenges in the areas of propulsion and tracking of the launch vehicle for the mission. "By lookng outward, we hope to inculcate a scientific temper in the younger generation," he said.

Mr. Madhavan Nair said the country's space programme was oriented towards social objectives. He cited the thrust on telemedicine as evidence of this goal. "In a bid to reach medical services to rural areas, as many as 11 nodes have been established at major hospitals across the country, with 36 terminals at remote places," he said.

Mr. Madhavan Nair said India had more than 100 transponders in space. This represented the largest single civilian application of geostationary orbit for telecommunication. He said the operationalisation of the Mark-3 version of the Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) would bring down the cost of satellite launches in the next 10 years.

The Chairman recalled how he was excited by the sight of the first sounding rocket soaring into the sky from Thumba. Former lead scientists of ISRO including Dr. V.R. Gowariker, Dr. A.E. Muthunayagam, Prof. E.V. Chitnis, Dr. S.C. Gupta and Prof. P.P. Kale were presented with mementoes. VSSC Director Dr. B.N. Suresh was present.

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