A thousand queries on Mars mission

September 30, 2014 12:00 am | Updated 05:48 am IST - Kozhikode:

There was loud laughter among the audience at an Open Forum on India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) organised by the Regional Science Centre and Planetarium here on Sunday.

A boy, naughty and perky, had just got up to ask the experts: “When 96 per cent of its atmosphere is carbon dioxide, why is there no global warming in Mars?”

There were several such questions, especially from children, that the two experts in the panel, V.P. Balagangadharan, former ISRO scientist, and K. Papootty, former Director of State encyclopaedia, had a hard time fielding.

The question of the boy was answered thus by Mr. Papootty: “Though its 96 percent Carbon Dioxide, the amount is quite small compared to that in the atmosphere of earth. That is the reason Mars isn’t so warm”.

The answer went on to trigger another string of questions.

Around 50 children from various schools in the district were part of the Open Forum, which began with an interesting presentation by Mr. Balagangadharan on the Mission. With his witty mode of presentation and timely analogies, he quickly had the children glued.

At the end of the presentation, the children sprang up with a volley of questions which even got the experts pausing to think and even to breathe.

The children wondered why Maven from United States of America reached Mars quicker than MOM. They also wanted to know the difference between LAM and a cryogenic engine. How could the MOM sense the presence of Methane in Mars from 9 lakh kilometres distance, they asked.

Could Methane be of any use to us on Earth? Why such a costly mission if there were no traces of life on Mars?

Could MOM have reached earlier if the PSLV rocket was substituted with a GSLV rocket? Why are satellites covered in gold foil? —there was literally no end to their questions.

Mr. Balagangadharan and Mr. Papootty took turns answering the questions while Director of the RSC V.S. Ramachandran, P. Suresh from All India Radio, Kozhikode, and Jayanth Ganguly, a scientist in RSC, pitched in occasionally.

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