To the moon and back

Tue, Aug 20, 2019

Not all superheroes wear capes


This Independence Day gave us two reasons to feel proud. One was the celebration of 73rd year of India’s independence and the other was the release of the film, Mission Mangal on the same day! Mission Mangal is based on India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). The film tells the story of Mangalyaan and the efforts of more than 500 ISRO scientists. And 2019 is ISRO’s 50th anniversary too. 2019 marks the completion of 50 years since the first successful test flight of an indigenous sounding rocket, RH-75.  On September 24, 2014, India created history when it achieved success with it’s first-ever Mars mission, Mangalyaan. The mission was launched by ISRO on November 5, 2013, onboard PSLV-C25 rocket which took the Mars Orbiter into space on its twenty-fifth flight.
The MOM Heroes-
K Radhakrishnan led the mission and oversaw the activities of ISRO as well as the mission.
S Ramakrishnan was a Director who helped in Development of the PSLV and liquid propulsion system.
P. Kunhikrishnan was a Project Director in the PSLV programme. He was also a Mission director of PSLV-C25/Mars Orbiter Mission.
Moumita Dutta was the Project manager of the Mangalyaan mission.
Nandini Harinath was the Deputy Operations Director of Navigation.
Ritu Karidhal was the Deputy Operations Director of Navigation.
BS Kiran was the Associate Project Director of Flight dynamics.
V Kesava Raju was the Mission Director at the Mars Orbiter Mission.
V Koteswara Rao was ISRO scientific secretary.
Chandradathan was the Director of the Liquid Propulsion system.
AS Kiran Kumar was the Director of the Satellite Application Centre.
M Annadurai was the Programme Director and in charge of budget management as well as direction for spacecraft configuration, schedule and resources.
MYS Prasad: Director at Satish Dhawan Space Centre. He was also the Chairman at Launch Authorisation Board.
SK Shivakumar was a Director at ISRO Satellite Centre. He was also a Project Director for Deep Space Network antenna.
S Arunan was a Project Director at Mars Orbiter Mission and he led the team to build the spacecraft.
B Jayakumar was an Associate Project Director at the PSLV programme who was responsible for testing the rocket systems.
MS Pannirselvam was the Chief General Manager at the Sriharikota Rocket port and was the man tasked to maintain launch schedules.
September 24, 2014, Mangalyaan reaches the intended orbit around Mars, making India the first country in the world to have successfully launched its mission to the Red Planet on the very first attempt.
With a budget of around $75 million, Mangalyaan mission cost just 11 per cent of NASA's MAVEN orbiter, which cost somewhere in the region of $485 million to develop and around $187 million for the launch into space and further ground support. The mission was so cost-effective that it even forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi to famously quip that India's real-life Mars mission costs less than the Hollywood film, Gravity!
Coming back to the film, Mission Mangal follows the lives of five women - from a woman juggling a career and a family to a woman who is forced to resort to IVF, a divorcee who has difficulties finding accommodation because of her marital status to a woman who dreams of joining NASA and a woman who has to tend to her husband injured in line of duty, Mission Mangal takes the viewers on a journey of these women scientists from different backgrounds who come together to make the impossible possible. Gone are the days of cat fighting at least in the movie. Mission Mangal is not only a movie based but a mirror that also reflects a deeply entrenched inherent patriarchy. One of the husbands in the film does not even know where to pay the electricity bill! He constantly nags his wives for irrelevant issues.
Mission Mangal nudges us to stop putting women on a pedestal as ideal mothers, wives and daughters. It is ok for a woman to have a life and a mind of her own. The film is also a reminder for us to encourage girls to take up STEM. India has a huge gender disparity in the STEM sectors. The labour participation of the women, especially in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics is almost the lowest in the world. It is because the logical and critical skills are considered to be the domain of the male. According to an estimate of UNESCO, only 14% of the researchers in India are women. Women are less likely to pursue a career in STEM fields.
Mission Mangal does not claim to be an accurate projection of the women scientists in ISRO but the message is loud and clear - not all superheroes wear capes. Some wear saris and gajras too!

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