My Popular Wishlist for ISRO

I have often tweeted about ISRO not tweeting enough about launches as much as NASA. It is extremely satisfying that these proud moments are now on Twitter including countdowns as also ISRO images from Mangalyaan. The Gandhi Peace Prize was an absolutely deserved award that ISRO received from our President. It is evident that besides scientific launches from India and other countries, ISRO can find finance from other popular and culturally relevant satellites which could include ‘pay per use’ or relevant advertising revenue while accessing services via the internet.

My fondness for ISRO also stems from my association with Dr. Abdul Kalam as a design consultant for Research Centre Imarat in Hyderabad. Dr. Kalam would personally approve design decisions related to Master Plan Layout, access and other aspects related to exterior of high security buildings including the CAD CAM Centre. Due to the rocky terrain typical of Hyderabad and consequent radiated heat, temperatures had to be controlled with cooling towers which were designed as water features. Trees could not be planted close to buildings for security reasons. So the southwest sun rays were deflected by the orientation of the buildings. There were storm water drainage problems, especially where quarters for foreign scientists were to be located, because of the steep gradient and so on!

Personal experiences of two aspects of satellite use which I wish to share through this article include one through my teaching architecture students and the other through my mother, late Smt.I.Saroja Rao. From the age of 70 she discovered music channels available round the clock with dedicated channels for Carnatic music. When the foreign satellite had to stop beaming to India due to financial mismanagement she said, ‘I feel I have lost my right hand.’

Gagan as a tool for architecture students

Students of Architecture in India are required to obtain actual real time data in the form of plans of any comprehensive site that is assigned /approved for design studies. These scaled plans used to be obtained from the Geological Survey of India and then confirmed on site for updates. However, over the past decade or so, many hours of academic design is effectively used for design rather than collecting, scaling and preparing site plans or base plans. This has been possible due to internet access provided by academic institutions.

My teaching experience of over 30 years has seen a positive change in the way we teach, the time we save for ourselves and our students and the effective use of available data and information for better site planning. It is unfortunate and disheartening that earthscans and related tools through our satellites are not popular with students. This is due to browser design, graphics and other unrelated aspects to information, coming in the way of attracting student eyeballs and exploration.

I would like to share how I came across Gagan and then the student experience with Gagan. In 2014, I gave a class of 27 students of Semester VII the historical site of Golconda in Hyderabad for upgradation as per UNESCO, ICOMOS and ASI standards and guidelines. There were many design objectives which are not relevant to this article, however, for a base plan of existing structures and layout we needed real time data. We did not succeed with GSI or ASI. I remembered National Remote Sensing Agency being very helpful with data for my doctoral research in 1996. I called them and they told us about Gagan. Till then we did not know it existed. We accessed and followed the instructions and found amazing images. However, selecting our site boundaries, saving and downloading took extremely long and was not successful. We had to reaccess and go through the entire exercise. We did this because we were excited about the promised 5m. to 1m. resolution.

Anyway, finally Google Maps won the day.

Time for Cultural Satellites

Uniting the country through the expression of varied cultural aspects rather than homogenising culture (as China is doing with Tibetan culture) is unique to India. One of the major cultural aspects is music. In India each State not only has unique musical instruments but also musical genres. Making this accessible at anytime to the common man will increase curiosity about musical instruments, language and perhaps encourage preservation of the instruments and increase students and therefore teachers. This might also encourage musical tourism including Schools and audio libraries. Skill India, Digital India and tourism per se would benefit. Eventually, this could also be extended to other SAARC countries for a fee.

I am sure ISRO can beat World-space any day!

Author Profile

Dr.Sridevi Rao is a Landscape architect based in Hyderabad, India. Follow her tweets on @sitahyderabadi.