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Nasa-Isro $1.2-bn project: Suspense on joint satellite as Modi meets Trump

It is the world's most expensive satellite being made by Nasa and Isro jointly

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Donald Trump, Narendra Modi
Donald Trump and Narendra Modi

Space scientists in India and America are on tenterhooks as Prime Minister and US President Donald J Trump meet for the first bilateral in Washington on Monday.

At stake is the world's most expensive Earth-imaging satellite till date being jointly made by the and the

Climate change seems to be a red rag for the current American administration.

If there is one thing that divides India and America big-time today, it is climate change. In all likelihood, climate change would be a point that would figure in the Trump-Modi discussions.

Trump calls climate change a hoax created by China by adhering to his views that "the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive".

On the other hand, Modi has penned a pictorial book — "Convenient Action: Continuity for Change" — that compiles his actions and beliefs on climate change.

Recently, the US walked out of the while India continues to honour its commitments.

Trump said, "India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries", while Modi said failing to act on climate change would be "a morally criminal act".

Can a middle ground be found or can the jointly-made satellite escape President Trump's anti-climate change gaze?

The world oldest democracy, the US, and the world's largest democracy, India, seem to be on two poles on the issue of climate change.

This is what is worrying scientists at Pasadena, a suburb of Los Angeles where at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory work has begun in full earnest to realise the NASA-satellite called

Scientists at the Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad are also anxious as they go about fabricating unique components for the massive satellite.

Together Indian and American scientists are making what is possibly the world's most expensive imaging satellite that will cost the countries over $1.5 billion.

Paul A Rosen, the satellite's project scientist at Pasadena, recently stated, "is the first big collaboration between and Isro, certainly on but just in general as well. This is two frequency RADAR, it is an L-band 24 centimetre and S-band 13 cm. S-band is being built by and L-band by It is a major collaboration both in terms of the technical building of the satellite as well as working together across the Pacific between India and US.

"We are going to be making snapshots of the every week using these two radars that give us a time lapse image of the motion of the tectonic plates, of the ice sheets, of the changes in vegetation over land in agriculture and forests."

Rosen said the scientists are looking at time variability of the over the life of the mission to understand how disasters evolve, how earthquakes occur, how volcanoes occur, how the ice sheets are changing and affecting sea level rise, and how forest fires and changes in the forest cover affect the atmosphere.

"It is very relevant to what society cares about which is changes in our climate, changes in our environment and how it affects society," he said.

If all goes on well, the satellite will be launched in 2021 from India using the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).

According to NASA, "the dedicated US and Indian mission is optimised for studying hazards and global environmental change...The mission will make globally integrated measurements of the causes and consequences of land surface changes.

"will provide a means of resolving highly spatial and temporally complex processes ranging from ecosystem disturbances to ice sheet collapse and natural hazards including earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and landslides."

One of the avowed objectives of the mission as suggested by is that for over a hundred years, scientists have considered diminishing glaciers and sea ice to be an early indicator of global warming.

"Satellite observations collected over the past three decades now show that the summer sea ice cover is decreasing drastically and may vanish entirely within the next decades. At the same time, ice sheets and glaciers are already melting fast enough to be the largest contributors to sea level rise, with a potential to raise sea level by several tens of centimetres or more in the coming century.

"The loss of sea ice cover will have a profound effect on life, climate, and commercial activities in the Arctic, while the loss of land ice will impact an important source of water for millions of people. Collectively, these effects mean that despite its remote location, changes in ice have global economic and health implications of climate changes."

It is this objective that the scientists are hoping will escape under the scan of President Trump whose understanding of climate change is quite at variance from this objective.

First Published: Sun, June 25 2017. 10:15 IST
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