Every launch resonates deeply in patriotic nerve centers and causes celebrations throughout the country. Some cities fire off so many fireworks the sky stays thick with smoke for hours. In other places, people pray for the success of the mission in temples and mosques. They may not know what's on board the rocket, but its liftoff certainly lends credibility to India.Link. Image: Mr. Madhavan Nair, president of ISRO (Photo: Scott Carney).
Still, India's rocket scientists are humble about their work. Launching missiles with massive payloads into space is a tricky business and things can go wrong at any stage.
After 11 consecutive successful launches, the most recent launch of India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle on July 10 had to be aborted when one of the engines failed. But these sorts of setbacks are par for the course in the space business -- and aren't confined to India. In 2003, a similar satellite launch by Brazil's space agency resulted in disaster when the rocket exploded on the launch pad, killing 21 technicians and briefly forcing the country to suspend its space program.
To keep the odds in their favor, some scientists make pilgrimages to the famous Venkateswara temple in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, with a small bronze replica of the payload. The model is sprinkled with holy water and placed in front of an idol of Vishnu to be blessed for success.
"Once you are airborne there is not time to make changes," said Rajeev Lochan, assistant science secretary of ISRO. "Maybe it helps to have the divine in your corner."
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: email@example.com.