Nineteen years ago, Ritu left his hometown of Lucknow, India and moved across the country to become a scientist. “It was not an easy decision,” she said, “but my parents always supported me.
On the day of its launch in November 2013, those dreams came true as Ritu stared at the monitor in the mission control room. Her autonomous system is devoted to the final test.
Also in the room is Nandini Harinath, the mission’s deputy operations director.
There was not a single moment of interest to Nandini in science. “My mother is a math teacher, my dad is a very fond of physics. I think for me, science is always there, ”says Nandini. Math is a popular topic at home, and Nandini thinks she got used to it before she even learned to speak. With her father, she remembered studying the constellations until she could spot the different stars in the night sky of Bangalore. “Of course, I didn’t think I would join ISRO, but 21 years ago, that happened.”
For Mangalyaan, Nandini did a math to determine the orbit that would send it to Mars.
While taking off, Nandini said, “I always have a butterfly in my stomach.” Once the orbiter is launched, the team must perform vital operations to remove it from Earth’s gravity towards Mars. As Nandini describes them, they are “a one-time affair. You do it right, or you don’t. “The orbiter follows a predetermined slingshot-like path, orbiting Earth six to seven times, firing the engines in every spin, until it finally reaches full speed. to leave the Earth’s sphere of influence at an exact angle towards the red planet. The first phase of the mission is over.
Nine months later, the orbiter will be ready to enter a new world: Mars.
During that time, Nandini worked on mission control to ensure that the Mars probe followed the trajectories she helped with calculating and designing. If the capsule turns away from its intended trajectory, her group should be able to control it back immediately. While Nandini is being tested on a Mars mission, her daughter is taking her final high school exam. Nandini will return from the control room at midnight, wake up at 4 a.m. to study with her daughter.
But on September 24, 2014, there will be no chance to make adjustments: it is time for Mangalyaan to fly on his own, using the system that Ritu helped to design. At 7:00 a.m. that morning, the orbiter sent a signal confirming that the self-propelled system on board had started to fire. It is ready to enter Mars’ gravity. The orbiter orientates itself using the trigger and the wheel until it is at an insertion angle within one degree of error.
21 minutes later, as planned, the engine started to fire. Four minutes later, the signal stopped. Orbital ships have gone after Mars. If it enters Mars’ gravity at the correct angle, it sends the signal back to Earth. Otherwise, Mangalyaan will never be heard again.
“Every minute,” Ritu recalls, “we’re monitoring the data to try and figure out if something out of the ordinary is going on.” But of course there is no way to change the quest itself. For the next 26 minutes, Ritu and Nandini’s team waited in the complete silence of the mission control room.
Then, at 8 a.m., a signal arrived on Earth. And the world witnessed the celebration, not only of Indian science, but also of the wonderful women at its center.
“Worldwide, half of the brains are women.”
Astrophysicist Vera Rubinthe famous, discoverer of dark matter wrote that she has three basic assumptions regarding women in science: