On Thursday morning, at about 9:30 AM, India launched the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle MK III (GSLV MK III) – a powerful new rocket along with a prototype landing capsule. The launch took place at the Satish Dhawan Space Center – India’s spaceport on the Sriharikota Island, near the city of Chennai.
My knowledge of space – as an entity – is abysmal. My understanding of science is faint unless a growing interest in the physics behind tumbling down a cliff without breaking both legs counts. What I terribly addictive is the passion that people have for it.
So, a few of us drove towards a breathtakingly-still section of Pulicat Lake, about 11 kilometers away from the launch site. There were other astronomy enthusiasts, sitting patiently. It is apparently well-known in the astronomy circle that one gets a great view of the launch from here.
They brought their cameras, binoculars, and telescopes; friends and families. There were interesting discussions on previous launches. Predictions on the future of space exploration. There was palpable excitement in the air. A few even moved their lips to a silent 10-second countdown.
When the GSLV MK3 finally took off, it appeared like a fire-breathing lantern, sounding like the loudest and most chest-crushing version of a Led Zeppelin drum solo. As it roared through the sky, there was a murmuring of Indian swiftlets over the Pulicat Lake. As though in a ballet, they paraded like locomotive burn marks against the pristine landscape.
There was silence for a few seconds. Everyone just stood still, soaking the moment. Smiles soon broke out. A few joked about the skies being too foggy that morning but they all seemed warm, fuzzy and just plain happy
As they were packing up their equipment to return back to life, I felt a little spaced out. Perhaps overwhelmed. People had driven for many hours for an experience that lasted 15-20 seconds. And it was foggy morning, and the skies could have been kinder. But not one regretful expression could I see. Just passionate people doing what they wanted to do instead of worrying about what the world expects from them.
I intend to attend as many launches as I can. And not just to see a really cool visual. Well, that too. I just can’t wait to feed on the energy of these rocket-launch junkies. Birding is something that causes tiny explosions in my chest. The passion in people does wonderful stuff to my brain.
A cardiac murmur
turns our pectoral
into broken cymbals,
and our hearts
into bamboo shoots,
whistling in the salty air,
tickling a silent lake –
Arun Venkataswamy, a friend of mine, is an ardent astronomy junkie. Since he spoke to me about these launches with such passion, I wanted to witness one. He is also a fantastic photographer (astronomy and otherwise) and you should check out his photography blog. I had written this on December 20, 2014.