India's Aditya-L1 spacecraft travels after it was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. (AP)
There really is something about Isro. An observable feature as its sun mission blasted off from Sriharikota on Saturday morning was how confident the people were that the launch of Aditya-L1 would be a success, long before its floating observatory began its 1.5-million-kilometre journey to the Lagrange Point. Such a journey, of 135 earth days, will cover only one per cent of the distance to the sun, which gives an idea of how far we are from the great cosmic object that breathed life into our planet and helped sustain it.
True, the launch was only a small, and perhaps, easy part in a mission that will help us understand the phenomena of the sun like its thermal, magnetic and radiation properties. Importantly, Aditya-L1 will study solar winds and flares to help us understand solar weather and activity and how to protect the satellites (of which there are in space around 8,000 functional objects belonging to many countries) from having their power grids knocked out.
The 4.5-billion-year-old ‘star’ of our solar system is a primordial force, which humans from those of early civilisations downwards have worshipped as the sun god. While the moon, Earth’s reliable satellite, evokes mysteries of all kinds and even lent the root for the word "lunatic", the sun was always the repository of enormous powers of heat and light that commanded faith and respect as a life force.
India is about 40 years behind in the matter of sending missions to study the sun, with Japan having kick-started the scientific probing in 1981, to be followed by the United States and Europe. While India landing Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram and Pragyan on the south polar side was a first, Nasa had made history in flying its Parker solar probe into the sun’s corona in 2021.
Aditya-L1’s seven scientific study payloads, which are all indigenously assembled, will be offering plenty of data to study various aspects. A successful positioning of Aditya in the Lagrange Point, where the gravitational forces of the sun and Earth balance each other out and thus enables uninterrupted observation even through a solar eclipse, will confer greater honour on Isro, the space agency with its fantastic record of space missions at the most effective cost.