India's latest successful Polar Synchronous Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launch is commendable for more reasons than merely overcoming the failure of the last unsuccessful mission. Not only did the PSLV inject into orbit 3 satellites (which included a 680-kilogram remote-sensing satellite named CARTOSAT-2 that will gather climate and geographical data, an Indonesian Earth-observation satellite, Lapan-Tubsat and a satellite from Argentina, Pehuensat-1) but it also carried into space the fore runner of the capsule that might eventually be used to bring back Indian astronauts safely from space.
India has indicated that it's working toward putting humans into space as early as 2014, with an eye toward sending a crew to the moon in the 2020 time frame. An unmanned moon mission is scheduled for 2008.
Yesterday, the capsule, returning after 12 days in Earth’s orbit, survived a fiery re-entry into the atmosphere and splashed down in the Bay of Bengal, from where it was plucked by a coast guard vessel to be ferried back to the Sriharikota space centre. This marks the entry of India into the club of space faring nations that can not only inject satellites into orbit, but also recover them back from space.
In recovering the capsule, ISRO achieved capabilities in precision control and heat-resistant silica tiles for safe re-entry into the atmosphere, parachutes to slow the capsule’s descent, and even a flotation system triggered by salt water.
With such recovery possible. ISRO plans to give the Indian scientific community a boost too. ISRO said that it can now help carry out microgravity experiments which would help scientists study material behavior in space and create materials with special properties. Earlier, such experiments were possible only at the International Space station. Now, a capsule with science experiments can routinely piggyback on large satellites.
Might look like a small step for the world, but a giant leap for Indian Space Research !!