November 5, 2013, is a date that will remain etched in India’s space history forever. It was the day on which the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or Mangalyaan was launched into space by Indian Space Research Organisation. It is also a day that no ISRO scientist working on the project will ever forget.
In a short film named Snapshots from Afar, three women scientists from the MOM team talk about the day and everything that went into making it possible. “Every launch gives me butterflies in the stomach,” smiles Nandini Harinath, Project Manager, Mission Design and Deputy Operations Director, Mars Orbiter Mission.
Seetha Somasundaram, the Program Director of the ISRO Space Science Program Office, talks about another historical day; September 24, 2014 – the grand day on which the Mangalyaan was finally inserted into the Mars orbit. “We will never forget it in all our lives…When was in the orbit – those were probably the sweetest words we heard on that day,” she says excitedly.
The film also features Minal Rohit, Scientist and Engineer, Project Manager, Methane Sensor for Mars. “When I was small, I saw many scientists wearing white garments and it was so fascinating,” she says, opening numerous doors to infinite dreams for every girl out there.
The three women also talk about the details of the mission and how it finally took shape in limited time. From payloads to the Mars Colour Camera – they worked hard on their projects and nurtured them like their babies. Their enthusiasm and joy is contagious. The way they speak about a mission that India completed in its very first attempt, is something that dreams are made of.
“I don’t think I ever thought I would be working in ISRO Satellite Centre. If you are doing mission operations, you really don’t need to watch a science fiction movie. We see that excitement in our day-to-day lives,” says Nandini Harinath, Project Manager, Mission Design and Deputy Operations Director, Mars Orbiter Mission.
The number of young girls and women whom these brilliant scientists can inspire is amazing. They reached the stars, and their success will now motivate many others like them to do the same.
The short film is a part of Breakthrough: Portraits of Women in Science series. It is a short film anthology from Science Friday and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) following women working at the forefront in their fields. Snapshots from Afar is directed by Emily Driscoll.