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Former ISRO Scientist: ‘International conspiracy’ halted India’s leap into space

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Bengaluru: The indigenous cryogenic engine which was put on the pedestal last Friday for the third time by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) in a ground test proved its mettle. This huge step towards a geostationary satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) in December could prove to be the country’s first heavy-lift version in this field.

This was the third and final successful ground test of the indigenous cryogenic engine by ISRO.

The GSLV-Mark-III can carry a payload of four tons, about twice the capacity of ISRO’s existing rockets. The C-20 engine that was “hot tested” for 635 seconds at the Liquid Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu will be used to power the rocket’s upper stage.

But S Nambinarayanan, former Project director of ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems, says this milestone could have been crossed 12 years ago had his project not been derailed by an “international conspiracy” to halt India’s leap into space.

It was Nambinarayanan who introduced the liquid fuel rocket technology in India in the 1980s. The Vikas engine used today by all ISRO launch vehicles, including the one that took Chandrayaan-1 to the moon in 2008 and Mangalyaan, was the result of two decades of work by his team with assistance from France.

And, as project director of the newly-launched indigenous cryogenic engine project, he plunged headlong into developing the propulsion systems for ISRO’s GSLV and interplanetary missions. With this in mind, in 1991, he signed a contract on behalf of ISRO with the Russian space agency Glavkosmos for the technology transfer of a cryogenic propulsion system.

But things did not turn out as planned. Glavkosmos, in 1993, reneged under pressure from the United States. And Nambinarayanan was arrested on November 1994 on charges of selling India’s “rocket secrets to Pakistan through two Maldivian women ‘spies’ leading to his suspension from his job.” With Nambinarayanan out of the scene, the cryogenic engine development suffered.

“Cancellation of the contract and my arrest were part of an agenda of the US, accomplished by conniving with officials of our Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Kerala Police,” Nambinarayanan told this correspondent in an email. As an evidence of conspiracy, he refers to the dismissal of an IB officer of the rank of the joint director in 1996 for his alleged links with the CIA.

In fact, in 1996, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), which took up the “ISRO spy case” found it to be false and fabricated by the IB and the Kerala Police- a finding endorsed by the Supreme Court in April 1998 and by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in September 1999.

The NHRC also passed strictures against the Kerala government for having “tarnished (Nambinarayanan’s) long and distinguished career in space research apart from the physical and mental torture to which he and his family were subjected.”

Nambinarayanan says he managed to obtain the supplies and documents relating to the cryogenic engine from Russia’s Glavkosmos before it cancelled the contract and arranged a private airline (Ural Aviation) to transport the cargo to India in four shipments.

“With this, I hoped ISRO could master the cryogenic technology,” he said. But his suspension from ISRO’s cryogenics systems project put an end to that.

“Had there been no conspiracy, ISRO would have achieved space power status long back, maybe as early as 2000,” Nambinarayanan told reporters. “Today, we are not only delayed by more than 12 years but have also lost several billion dollars worth of launch business.”

The rocket scientist feels sad that while the CBI concluded that the ISRO “spy case” was false and fabricated, nobody bothered to unearth the motives behind it or punish those officers of the IB and the Kerala Police who were charged with negligence and dereliction of duty by CBI.

“The government should constitute a special investigation team to find out the total truth in the ISRO spy case,” he said.

While ISRO is celebrating last week’s successful “hot test” of its new cryogenic engine, Nambinarayanan, 75, who started this work two decades ago, is now spending much of his time fighting court cases, to get Rs 1 crore (Over $145,000) in damages he had claimed from the state and central governments.

He is also seeking action against police officers who framed him and others in a false case that harmed India’s space program. (K.S. Jayaraman, IANS)

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  • Ravi

    What a loss for the nation ! Some people would sell their mother for money. Look at the gravity of the crime committed against Shri Nambinarayan! Those responsible should be punished and their ill gotten wealth to be confiscated.

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Scientists Discover A New Method To Fight Alzheimer’s, Dementia

Worldwide, about seven percent of people over 65 suffer from Alzheimer's or some form of dementia, a percentage that rises to 40 percent above the age of 85.

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Alzheimer's
One hemisphere of a healthy brain (L) is pictured next to one hemisphere of a brain of a person suffering from Alzheimer disease. VOA
Eliminating dead-but-toxic cells occurring naturally in the brains of mice designed to mimic Alzheimer’s slowed neuron damage and memory loss associated with the disease, according to a study published Wednesday that could open a new front in the fight against dementia.The accumulation in the body of “zombie cells” that can no longer divide but still cause harm to other healthy cells, a process called senescence, is common to all mammals.

Scientists have long known that these dead-beat cells gather in regions of the brain linked to old age diseases ranging from osteoarthritis and atherosclerosis to Parkinson’s and dementia.

Prior research had also shown that the elimination of senescent cells in ageing mice extended their healthy lifespan.

But the new results, published in Nature, are the first to demonstrate a cause-and-effect link with a specific disease, Alzheimer’s, the scientists said.

Alzheimer's
A lady suffering from Alzheimer’s. Flickr

But any treatments that might emerge from the research are many years down the road, they cautioned.

In experiments, a team led by Tyler Bussian of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota used mice genetically modified to produce the destructive, cobweb-like tangles of tau protein that form in the neurons of Alzheimer’s patients.

The mice were also programmed to allow for the elimination of “zombie” cells in the same region.

“When senescent cells were removed, we found that the diseased animals retained the ability to form memories, and eliminated signs of inflammation,” said senior author Darren Baker, also from the Mayo Clinic.

The mice likewise failed to develop Alzheimer’s signature protein “tangles”, and retained normal brain mass.

 

Alzheimer's
Alzheimer’s disease patient Isidora Tomaz, 82, sits in an armchair in her house in Lisbon, Portugal. It’s predicted that by 2050, 135 million Americans are going to suffer from mild cognitive impairment, a precursor of Alzheimer’s. VOA

Keeping zombies at bay

A closer look revealed that the “zombies” belonged to a class of cells in the brain and spinal cord, called glia, that provide crucial support and insulation to neurons.

“Preventing the build-up of senescent glia can block the cognitive decline and neuro-degeneration normally experienced by these mice,” Jay Penney and Li-Huei Tsai, both from MIT, wrote in a comment, also in Nature.

Bussian and his team duplicated the results with pharmaceuticals, suggesting that drugs could one day slow or block the emergence of Alzheimer’s by keeping these zombie cells at bay.

“There hasn’t been a new dementia drug in 15 years, so it’s exciting to see the results of this promising study in mice,” said James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society in London.

 

Alzheimer's
The accumulation in the body of “zombie cells” that can no longer divide but still cause harm to other healthy cells, a process called senescence, is common to all mammals. IANS

For Lawrence Rajendran, deputy director of the Dementia Research Institute at King’s College London, the findings “open up new vistas for both diagnosis and therapy for neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.”

Up to now, dementia research has been mostly focused on the diseased neurons rather than their neighboring cells.

“It is increasingly becoming clear that other brains cells play a defining role,” Rajendran added.

Several barriers remain before the breakthrough can be translated into a “safe, effective treatment in people,” Pickett and other said.

The elderly often have lots of harmless brain cells that look like the dangerous senescent cells a drug would target, so the molecule would have to be good at telling the two apart.

Also Read: Common Painkillers Triple Harmful Side Effects in Dementia

Worldwide, about seven percent of people over 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia, a percentage that rises to 40 percent above the age of 85.

The number afflicted is expected to triple by 2050 to 152 million, according to the World Health Organization, posing a huge challenge to healthcare systems. (VOA)