The Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Charles Elachi, and the Chair of Caltech’s EAS Division, Ares Rosakis, recently hosted the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Dr. Koppillil Radhakrishnan. The visit focused on plans regarding a joined Earth-orbiting mission that will be the first radar mission to systematically and globally study the solid Earth, the ice masses, and ecosystems, all of which are sparsely sampled at present. While at Caltech Dr. Koppillil Radhakrishnan visited research facilities and delivered the Klein Lecture in Aerospace. In his presentation he highlighted the long history of connections between engineers and scientist at Caltech and in India. Dr. Radhakrishnan prides himself to be the last student of Caltech alumnus Satish Dhawan (Eng '49, PhD '51) who participated in the creation of India's space program. “Caltech has been instrumental in the training of many international space leaders,” explains Chair Rosakis “these include Satish Dhawan who was pivotal in the creation of the Indian space program and Qian Xuesen (also known as Tsien Hsue-Shen) who was the father of Chinese rocketry.” Last year the Indian Department of Space and ISRO established a fellowship at Caltech in the name of Satish Dhawan to further encourage the training of Indian students at Caltech and specifically at GALCIT.
JPL also has worked closely with ISRO since July 2011 to develop this mission which exploits synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to map the Earth’s surface every 12 days. It will provides a means of disentangling highly spatial and temporally complex processes ranging from ecosystem disturbances, to ice sheet collapse and natural hazards including earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and landslides. To address the broad range of disciplines and scientific study areas of the mission, ISRO and JPL jointly developed a dual-frequency system, at L-band (24 cm wavelength) and S-band (10 cm wavelength). This dual frequency SAR mission will provide large scale data sets that are critical to three Earth Science disciplines: 1) Solid Earth (deformation), 2) Ecosystems (vegetation, carbon cycle) and 3) Cryosphere (climate change) and a number of complementary applications that exploit similar measurements, including disaster response, agricultural monitoring, and hydrological applications.