Expand user scientific community to justify expensive space-missions: ISRO chief

Expand user scientific community to justify expensive space-missions: ISRO chief

India News

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman S Somanath has urged Indian scientific institutions to identify talented students and take steps to motivate them in effectively using the data emerging from science-based space missions.

“Building a science payload, putting it on a satellite, launching it… involves huge money and contributions from thousands of scientists. It implies that the data be utilised and results justifying the investment be produced,” said Somanath.

He was addressing students and scientists during the day-long ‘User Meet of XPoSat’ organised at the ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru on Thursday.

ISRO is collaborating with the Raman Research Institute (RRI) to build X-Ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat), scheduled to be launched sometime this year. XPoSat will be India’s first, and only the world’s second polarimetry mission using X-Ray. XPoSat aims to study the dynamics of the bright astronomical X-Ray sources under extreme conditions. It has two payloads – an X-Ray Polarimeter named POLIX and X-ray SPECtroscopy and Timing identified as XSPECT.

“In all our deliberations and meetings on science-based space missions, we discuss how well the data will be utilised; what value will be added to the science community; how it will contribute to the nation’s (scientific) progress and what scientific capabilities can be added. We cannot say that (a science-mission) will be of great value unless there is creation of a pool of scientists and make it a sustainable (effort). Many discussions on science-based missions are going on parallely (with ISRO), but they do not reach a definition and has been a bottle-neck,” said Somanath.

About XPoSat, Somanath, also the secretary of the Department of Space Commission, said, “It is very important to create a pool of talent in the (respective) domain. In comparison to the scientific communities created during other (science) missions, the XPoSat user community is very small. And this is a point of concern, at this point. ”

Offering a suggestion to address the problem, the ISRO chief said, “Institutions need to identify talented young students and expand the community. We need to mentor them so that they use and work on the data even in future.”

While praising some of the recent science-based space missions like Astrosat and Mangalyaan with respect to their data collection and dissemination methods, the ISRO chairman pointed at the main challenge – of finding experts who can design instruments based on the need of the required measurements. “But, some institutions, with the help of ISRO, have done well on missions like Astrosat, Mangalyaan and Chandrayaan-1,” he noted.

Much of XPoSat’s testing is nearing completion and the mission is in its advanced stages. Thursday’s meet was also attended by AS Krian Kumar, former ISRO chairman, senior scientists from ISRO and RRI and students.

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