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Friday, February 26th, 2021

India has made several notable contributions to the world of astronomy from ancient times to the modern era

The Vice President of India, Shri M Venkaiah Naidu today said the ultimate aim of science is to make people’s lives comfortable and happier and urged scientific institutions to provide a platform for innovations and technological advancements. 

Addressing the students and the faculty at the Centre for Research and Education in Science and Technology (CREST) of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru, he said that science is the foundation for the progress of any society as it deals with truths of verifiable facts through repeated experiments. He stressed the need to inculcate scientific temper among the people, particularly the younger generation. He also called for providing equal opportunities and encouragement to women scientists.

During his visit to the CREST campus, the Vice President inaugurated the two new facilities--A large segment polishing facility for mirrors for the Thirty Meter Telescope and an Environmental Test Facility of small payloads, as part of the M.G.K. Menon Laboratory for Space Sciences.

He also witnessed the integration of the space payload inside the M.G.K. Menon Laboratory for Space Sciences and the remote operation of the 2m Himalayan Chandra Telescope.

Underlining the importance of studying basic science, he said India has a rich heritage from the ancient times, in astronomy and mathematics. The facilities inaugurated today will help India in the Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission, initiated by the Prime minister.

The Environmental Test Facility will help the space sector in the coming years.

It may be recalled that India joined the international consortium of research organizations and Science institutes in five countries: India, Japan, China, Canada, USA to build and operate the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), the largest ground-based astronomy project in the northern hemisphere. India is a 10% partner in the multi-billion US dollar (~USD 3B) project proposed to be sited on top of the Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Project is expected to be completed in the early 2030s.

The “Thirty Meter” in TMT refers to the 30-meter diameter of the main mirror or the primary mirror. Since making a single 30-m glass blank for astronomy is not possible, it comprises 492 segments of 1.45-m each. The complex project involves making all the 492 segments to act as one single mirror of 30-m diameter while the telescope is tracking the sky with extreme precision. India’s contribution relates to the software, electronics and hardware to control the 492 segments behave as a single mirror within a few nanometers. More than a dozen industries are involved in making these very precision systems. 

Other crucial Indian contribution includes delivering about 90 segments to the project. Mirrors will be fabricated at the Development of India TMT Optics Fabrication Facility (ITOFF) at CREST using SMP or stress mirror polishing technology which is different from the conventional technology. The SMP technology will deliver two segments in a month compared to conventional polishing which takes anywhere between 12-18 months. India

After inaugurating the facility the Vice President, congratulated the scientists and engineers for their efforts in meeting the national and international goals by setting-up this world-class optics facility. He also complimented the DST and DAE for their vision to support scientific projects of this scale. He added that our participation is part of India's age-old cultural ethos of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbam" (World is one family). It is a great pride for us to be part of this scientific endeavor for humanity’s common good to understand our origin and evolution in the universe.

Observing that India's long tradition of Astronomy is well known to the world, Shri Naidu said that India has made several notable contributions to the world of astronomy from ancient times to the modern era.

The Vice President said that participation in such mega scientific projects would provide a level playing field to Indian scientists and help the industries to build capacity in high technology field.

He said India was moving up in the technology front very rapidly. The much-talked about ISRO space mission “Mangalyan” and India’s astronomy observatory “ASTROSAT (astronomy satellite) for surveying the sky in X-ray and UV, and the soon to be launched Aditya L1, a solar study mission, are a few examples.

The Vice President said that India's foray into global and world class national scientific ventures seems natural, given its intellectual reserves and global stature as an emerging economic and political power.

On this occasion, the Vice President also emphasised the importance of mother tongue in one’s life and said that one should always respect one’s mother, motherland, mother tongue and Guru. He appealed to the students to always work towards the development of their country no matter wherever they live. He asked them to ‘learn, earn and return’ to their roots and work for the betterment of the society.

Shri Naidu noted that India has been able to fare better than many developed countries in containing the Covid-19 pandemic. He credited healthy food habits and natural lifestyle of the people in rural India for this. The Vice President also advised the youth to follow a healthy lifestyle by avoiding junk food, practicing yoga and living with nature.

Karnataka’s Minister for Home, Shri Basavaraj Bommai, Prof. Annapurni Subramaniam, Director, IIA, Prof. G C Anupama, Dean, IIA and Prof. B. Easwar Reddy, Programme Director, ITMT project participated in the event.

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