What’s with the name ?

Greetings Earthlings !

A bit about me to start with …

I am a Scientist/Engineer working at Indian Space Research Organization. I am part of the Control Dynamics and Simulation Group at ISRO Satellite Centre and work in the challenging field of spacecraft Attitude and Orbit Control System (AOCS). I enjoy my work but I do believe that one must have an activity which they cherish, which one can engage in and smile on, when work gives them a hard time. I haven’t found my hobby per se. I love long drives with loud music. I have recently started enjoying cooking. I love my endless nights of web research on the randomest of random topics.

But I guess the thing that brings immense happiness to my soul is TRAVEL. I love meeting new people, trying new food, wandering aimlessly on city streets, hopping around local transport and buying myself cute little souvenirs as trip memoirs. Being a traveler not a tourist, I put more emphasis on making memories and having a good time as opposed to ticking off things to do on a list.

Nearing 30, people my age are busy minting money for future houses and kids while I spend all my free time and all my bank balance on my upcoming travels. I save for travel. I invest my time and money in travel. Because I know that my future self would definitely appreciate the efforts.

I have been writing about my travels for a few years now. But this is the first time I’m venturing into something else. This is the first time I don’t know what to write but still want to put random words into play.

Although with this blog my main focus would be on penning down my travel tales, I do feel obligated to use this space to jot down my random thoughts once in a while !

So I dedicate this first post to my bread and butter ! Satellites !

Let’s start with a few simple definitions.

An orbit is defined as a path described by one body in its revolution about another.

A satellite is a celestial body orbiting another of larger size. It can also be defined as a manufactured object intended to orbit a celestial body.

Working in the field of spacecraft attitude and orbit control system, I cannot avert my wandering mind from drawing this remarkable analogy of how I am a satellite revolving forever and ever in my very own orbit.

I fly around in the open skies. I float merrily amongst the stars. The entire universe is my playground. But I must not forget that I am bound. I am restricted to a fixed orbit. I am stuck in an infinite path. I am but a slave to my central body.

With better understanding of orbital dynamics I take it a bit further. Am I really bound to just one central body? Am I really following just one fixed orbit? Even before my self questionnaire is over, my mind is screaming a big NO. What am I then?

To answer my questions I turn to the famous N-Body problem that has bedazzled astrophysicists since ages. This involves predicting the individual motions of a group of celestial objects interacting with each other gravitationally. With a few assumptions and some mathematical jugglery, this can be simplified to the Two-Body problem which describes the gravitational relation between two celestial bodies while simply neglecting the gravitational effect of any third body. If only, life was this simple. So it’s settled, I am definitely governed by the N-Body problem. But is the solution simple? Is my trajectory, which at a given time is affected by infinite number of sources, always predictable?

Let’s come back to real life and forget about this orbital mechanics business for a second. Our lives are influenced by several factors. To name a few, this can be your Family, Friends, Work, Passion, God etc. etc. These are the things your universe revolves around.

The already complex equations become much more cumbersome to solve as the fictitious spheres of influence of these infinite sources of interest continuously vary with time, age, mood and what not. Maintaining your sanity while striking a balance with these is what counts as living the perfect life that we all run after.

The bitter truth is that as a satellite revolving around a planet, with time we are bound to hate our fixed, routine orbit or even detest our planet. But it is absolutely vital to understand that without the force with which our planet keeps us bound, we would be flying around the deep space indefinitely, not even getting a chance to enjoy the marvelous sights around us. Our planet keeps us sane. It keeps us normal. Without it we would be wandering aimlessly in the cosmos. The perfect example for this is people (Am I one of them ?) hating their job but not being able to let go since it is the sole source of their livelihood.

The closest thing I can think of to describe my situation is The Voyager spacecraft duo launched in 1977 set out on The Planetary Grand Tour. These were flyby missions, taking gravity assists from the giant outer planets as they progressed further and further away from “life as we know it” in search of a new one maybe. They are in the interstellar space now, several light years away, way beyond our solar system, way beyond the earth and the other planets in our solar system. How Exciting ! Someday, maybe I can escape life too. Someday, maybe I can wander away too. Sigh !

Anyway, so why did I pick this name “The Drifting Satellite” ?

From Newton’s 1st Law of Motion, an object at rest continues to be in a state of rest and an object in motion stays in motion (with the same velocity) unless acted upon by an external or unbalanced force. This means, that if I wish to leave my orbit, I am required to spend fuel or apply thrust to enable escape from my fixed orbit. Also, there are a million external disturbances, some obvious and some unexplainable, that make me divert from my path and make me drift away from my orbit. I often let my heart and mind happily wander. But sometimes I have to constantly keep applying effort to continue on my prescribed journey.

Every passing day, I try to make peace between the wanderer and the scientist. With no end in sight, I happily try to strike a balance.

To end this post I want to reflect on how insignificant everything is. The biggest problems I have faced, the happiest moments I have cherished, the worst hardships I have suffered, everything I know, feel, love, do is so extremely insignificant when I think about these amazing words.

These are from noted astronomer Carl Segan as he describes this 1990 picture clicked by Voyager 1.

“Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam”.

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