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Moon man

In conversation India has arrived in space, says Mylsamy Annadurai. K. Jeshi meets the project director of India’s first mission to the moon

Photo: K. Ananthan

Making his country proud Mylsamy Annadurai

Congratulations Sir” is my spontaneous greeting as I join him in his car on his journey to his village, Kodhaavady in Pollachi. “It’s a symbolic victory,” smiles the project director of the first Indian mission to the moon, Mylsamy Annadurai, talking about every Indian’s pride — the Chandrayaan-I. “It indicates to the whole world that ‘India can make it in space’,” he says.

He is making the trip to his village after three decades, and says “it feels great.” “Being at the helm of affairs, I have every reason to feel elated. I say with all humility that it’s a full and full ‘Made in India’ mission. The Moon Impact Probe (MIP) has gone all the way to the moon, and is able to target a place where people in the coming decades are going to land,” he explains.

Scientific input

Now, the Indian flag is flying there and is paving the way for future generations.

“We have carried an array of our own instruments along with some international ones that will help us cross check our findings. The scientific output from Chandrayaan in the weeks to come is going to make a lot of difference to the upcoming lunar scientists,” he adds.

Mapping the moon

The objective is to make future explorations more systematic.

“In the 60s and 70s, people landed on a place without knowing where to land. Chandrayaan-I will take a systematic map of the moon. Chandrayaan II will land at a place specified by Chandrayaan-I, which is more fertile in water content, Helium 3 and other minerals. Chandrayaan- III, will try and bring back samples to earth. By the time the data indicates the need for human presence there, we will be technically ready to put our Indian on the moon by 2020. A very systematic line up and a well-planned programme is Chandrayaan,” declares Annadurai with pride.

On what the project means to the ordinary person, he says, “My father was a common man; today, his son is leading an internationally reputed mission. It throws open immense opportunities for the common man who is witnessing a slice of history unfolding in front of his eyes. It is an uplifting moment for the whole community; a common man also can walk with his head held high.”

An inquisitive student, he took great interest in his surroundings in Kodhavaady, especially its soil, known for “its perseverance and hard work”. “When I was in Class II, there was no playground in school, but the teachers and students worked every day after school hours and got it ready in six months,” recollects Mylsamy, who used to walk 10 km everyday to attend school.

“Always set high standards, aim for something that is beyond your reach and work towards it. On November 14, Mr. Kalam congratulated me and said, ‘Good, you have done it…when is the next?’ That inspires you to work harder,” he says.

“In the long run, Mother Earth needs an alternative. Mars resembles Earth in terms of atmospheric conditions and the possibility of ground water being there is not ruled out. If that is so, space travel is a must. We need techniques to make space travel cheaper so that human colonies can be maintained there. And, travel from Moon to Mars is relatively cheaper than from Earth. A mission like Chandrayaan-I opens up new vistas,” he explains.

Kalam is his icon and the book he has held on to since his college days is the Bhagavad Gita. As for today’s youth, he “sees a ray of hope in them. The future looks bright.”

His journey

In 1982, Mylsamy landed in ISRO, a big ocean. He was in a department that dealt with operation of spacecrafts. He submitted a proposal for a software satellite simulator.

“Professor Rao, our director, had written — ‘Very good work, it needs to be pursued further, a full team has to be formed. If Annadurai is ready to take the responsibility, he can head the team.’ It happened three months after my joining,” he recollects.

It took him four-and-a-half years to realise the vision and the first-ever software simulator for an ISRO mission came into being. One of his national awards came for ‘devising a technique on managing a satellite’.

“Satellites have eye- sensors, like our eyes. During one of the missions, INSAT-2A (which even today is the highest earning satellite) became blind in two years, though the actual mission life is 15 years. And, the technique solved the problem. It has been working for 10 years now,” he smiles.

Someone in the U.S. has come up with a patent for a work on ‘How to maintain a satellite despite the failure of sensors’ and the only reference is Mylsamy Annadurai’s work.

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