Friday, June 9, 2017

GSLV-Mark3 Launch on 5 June 2017

I was on leave that day.  We had a 'upanayanam' function to attend that morning, and I had to collect the 'smartcard' from the ration shop later.  I was free in the afternoon.

It had been a long time wish for me to shoot  one of the ISRO Sriharikota launches from a closer range.  I have, in the past, shot a couple of PSLV launches, one from the terrace of my office building in Mylapore, a clear 90 km away from the launchpad, and another from the bridge over the Korattur lake, again somewhere around 70 km away, not very much closer.  Though interesting, they were not impressive - we could only see the flame that spewed from the rocket, and not the rocket itself.  I knew the GSLV was slightly larger and heavier than the PSLV, but even then, from such a distance this also might not be much of a visual treat.  I definitely wanted something more spectacular, so it had to be from somewhere closer to the launchpad.

Having viewed the launches both through direct telecast on DD and personally on the occasions mentioned above, I had formed an opinion that it was best to view the launch from a place that was just a little away from ground zero, as you could get a panoramic view from that distance, as compared to the straight vertical take off as you get to see from Sriharikota on DD.  Googling map, I found Pulicat offered a good vantage point, and zeroed in on it.

Though the afternoon was free, I did not have much time at my disposal, as the launch was scheduled at 5.28 pm, and I did not know the route to or topography of Pulicat.  So I decided to engage a driver who knew the place, and we left home at 3.30 pm, guessing we would reach the 70 km distance in about an hour and a quarter.  On the way, I was a little worried to see clouds forming, and prayed that the hot sun evaporates them by the time I reached Pulicat.  Tension was slowly building up, as there was some traffic on the Kolkata highway, and the Ponneri market area and the Pulicat town area were too crowded, considerably slowing traffic down. I wanted to go to the beach side as early possible to choose a place much ahead of the launch.   On crossing the bridge that leads to the shore, the Pulicat lighthouse came into our view.  I looked at my watch - it was 4.50 pm! By that time, fortunately, the clouds had also cleared.

On seeing the lighthouse, a thought quickly raced through my mind - how nice it would be if I could just get to the top of it - that would be the best vantage point!  We enquired and found that the lighthouse was very much open to public, and entry was permitted till 5pm.  It was as if heaven had opened its doors for me!  We rushed through the gate, bought tickets, and climbed up the stairs of the 10-storey equivalent tower in a jiffy.

To my surprise, I found a few photo enthusiasts and students keen to watch the launch had also chosen this spot and were already setting up their gadgets.  I too joined them.  A group of village people and school children had also come to view the launch.  After a thrilling wait as the clock ticked, the rocket blasted off and I was able to capture the launch in all its glory - right from the time the nose of the rocket appeared on the horizon, till the booster rockets of first stage separated from the main structure.  The excitement and exhilaration of the assembled crowd was very much evident through the cheers and frenzied cries that followed the launch.  I present an edited version here, so that you too can share my pleasure:

Hope you enjoyed.  Please leave your comments below.  Thanks.


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