This is Rocket Science

Every time I attempt something seemingly difficult someone is always around to comment- go ahead and do this its not rocket science.

I  often wondered what is rocket science and what is the big fuss about the same.

NDTV provided me with the answer. Probably Sanity prevailed in their studios. Yesterday they were doing a program on the team that was responsible for sending India’s mission to Mars also known  as Mangal Yaan or Mars Orbiter Mission . So this is what I learned about Rocket Science.

Rocket science is fairly simple. It just requires one to produce a spacecraft which will fly at escape velocity (11.2 m/s) or 40,320 Km per hour and eventually deliver a payload ( or passenger) some 780,000,000 kms away from earth with a computer on the driving seat.  The worlds fastest fighter jet do about 3 mach which is around 4500 Km/h.

1) So The most amazing part of the Rocket is the on board computer. It not only identifies any potential problem but also corrects it. It is completely autonomous.  One scientists explained how everything that they receive from the space craft and satellite is 15 minutes old and they cannot do anything to fix any problem. That is why the onboard computer is really the heart of the mission.

I just hope it doesn’t run on windows.

2)  The blast off sequence is a automatic sequence. It automatically starts once all the checks are complete.  This is what is normally shown on T.V with numbers on screen going…. and afterwards people hugging each other. And it can stop if there is any problem detected. In the past the blast off has been stopped 1 second the launch because a computer was not happy with what he was reading.

3) Our Mangal Yaan mission is trying to find Methane at Mars and not Martians. If there is Methane then the scientists can say with some certainty if there are methane producing microbes or not at Mars surface. Microbes is life.

4) Part of the rocket science is in design of the space craft that will carry the payload ( the real stuff) and itself outside the earths Atmosphere and onwards towards Mars. Remember escape velocity from 7th standard physics. 11.2 m/s it is and this is the speed the space craft need to achieve to be able come out of earths gravitational pull. To do this you need a cool engine, a cocktail of fuel and some deep metallurgy to design the body of the space craft so that it doesn’t burn as it leaves earths atmosphere. Now this is what is main part of the puzzle as NASA explains below

Achieving escape velocity is one of the biggest challenges facing space travel. The vehicle requires an enormous amount of fuel to break through Earth’s gravitational pull. All that fuel adds significant weight to the spacecraft, and when an object is heavier, it takes more thrust to lift it. To create more thrust, you need more fuel. It’s a cycle that scientists are hoping to resolve by creating lighter vehicles, more efficient fuels and new methods of propulsion that don’t require the same ingredients to attain great speeds.

5) While we have done most of the work ourselves NASA’s deep space network and South Africa Space agency is helping us out in satellite tracking, telemetry and command services during the non-visible phase of ISRO’s network. So three cheers to them.

6) On 30 November 2013  Mangal Yaan started its  journey way from earths orbit and on trajectory towards mars. An engine was fired 780,000,000 kms away from earth for this to happen. That is pure rocket science. Now for 6 months the orbiter will send us information and then just wither away. The plan is not to get the orbiter back to India. Not yet.

7) On this mission there is only an orbiter. This means that our mangal yaan doesn’t actually lands on Mars but  just orbits around for 6 months or so. Our subsequent missions are designed have a lander and  a rover so that we can get up close and physical with Mars.  This might happen sometime in 2020 so hold your breath till then.

We should all be thanking our South Indian brothers and sisters who are behind Mars missions. The mission is driven by the Anna Durais and the Radhkrishnans. They have all come from not so famous IIT’s.  Thankfully IITs are are dedicated to “Mission to America” as it is not rocket science and it doesn’t require reaching 11.2 m/s.  Just a visa and flight will do.



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