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Watch out for the mother of all MOMs (Mars Orbiter Mission)!

Oct 3, 2014

It is September of 2007, I am sitting in an auditorium filled up with 150 young school students generally under the age of 15 years. The event is 58th Conference of International Astronautical Congress at Hyderabad, under the theme of “Touching Humanity: Space for improving quality of life”.

The then President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam is the chief guest, walks in just in time for his Q&A with these students. There is a tremendous sense of anticipation.

In no time he is on the stage with the Chairman of ISRO Dr Madhavan Nair. He needs no introduction. He has always been known as India’s rocket man!

“I have two questions” he says, “before you start asking me your questions”!

“How many of you want to go to the moon?” In a flash, 300 hands go up. He smiles.

“And how many of you wish to go to the Mars?” Yet again, the same 300 hands are up!

He cannot help smiling again and looks at the ISRO Chairman. “Madhavan”, he says, “you better do something about this aspiration. They are anyway going to get there”. Kalpana Chawla, Sunita Williams and Rakesh Sharma would be just pioneering greats on a long list in making.

Then very quickly a young girl training as an astronaut is introduced to the audience. Wow, what a feeling that was.

Pierre Lys, my fellow delegate, who was a space insurer then and I catch up at a tea break. He was attending a parallel session on space debris and wonders what is it that I was doing at the kids’ session.

“Well Pierre”, I tell him, “I just got a glimpse into India’s future.  Nothing could be more telling”.

I can only say that the Mars mission is the beginning of a very long march. It represents first of many baby steps. Please be on the lookout for what comes next!

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