Friday, 24 May 2019

A visit to Sriharikota and Pulikat Lake

Overview: A visit to Sriharikota to view one of the satellite launches (read Chandrayaan) was in my bucketlist for a long time. Earlier the entry into the Space Centre was prohibited so watching the launch was a difficult task. 
When I read about the PSLV C46 launch, and the arrangements made to enable common public to view the launch, I decided that it's a good opportunity. The registration process is pretty easy, where we would need to enter some details like Name, DOB, Aadhar card, Address etc. The launch is normally scheduled mid-week, so I had to go and come back just in 1 day. 
About PSLV C46: This spacecraft carried the earth observation satellite RISAT 2B, which can monitor movements even in bad weather conditions. 
We started from Bangalore on Tuesday evening and reached Sullurpeta late night. Being a small town with limited tourist attractions, there are not many options to stay, however, there are around 4-5 hotels which are good enough for 3-4 hours sleep. We had booked Lathika Guest rooms on the main road. Unfortunately, due to heavy demand due to the launch, they had allocated all the rooms to someone else, and had to arrange an alternate accommodation to us, which was just next door. The rooms were very average with just basic facilities.
We started at around 3am on Wednesday from Sullurpeta and reached Satish Dhawan Space Centre (20km) at 3:30am. To our surprise, there was a long queue of vehicles for the security check. It was well managed but it took around 1.5 hours to finally get through the checks and reach the viewing gallery. It was around 2 kms from the launching deck, and there were big screens to provide all the info about ISRO and the mission. There was also a gallery displaying the miniature spacecrafts and all the info on the previous launches. There was a good crowd of around 2000+ people and there was a big cheer when the final countdown began for the launch. We could sense the thrust exerted by the spacecraft during take off. The experience was very good and we were happy to have made it to the event travelling 400kms one way. After the launch, one can visit the space centre and the museums inside the complex.
Display from the giant screen at Sriharikota

Take off at Sriharikota

PSLV C46

PSLV C46

PSLV C46





Miniature model at Sriharikota

Launch viewing station
Just next to the space station is the  Pulikat Lake, India's second largest brackish water lake. Being summer time, we could not spot too many migratory birds, but we could see the salt deposits along the lake.

Pulicat Lake

Pulicat Lake

Pulicat Lake
How to visit: The registration link opens 4-5 days before the launch. The link is as follows:
https://www.shar.gov.in/VSCREGISTRATION

Sriharikota is in Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh, located around 100km north of Chennai. The nearest town is Sullurpeta, and buses are available for Sullurpeta from Chennai, Tirupati and Nellore. For the launch event, special buses are arranged to ferry the visitors from Sullurpeta to Sriharikota.