Biting cold, uninhabitable conditions and extreme mental and physical exhaustion, these are just some of the challenges that one might have to face if they are planning an expedition to Antarctica. However, for 56-year-old scientist Mangala Mani it was all a part of her job. In December 2017, Mani became the first woman scientist from Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to spend over a year, exactly 403 days, in Antarctica.
How History Was Created
Mani was a part of a 23-member team which was sent to the Indian station in the icy continent, Bharti, for research. The team went there in November 2016 and came back last December. Mani describes herself as someone who had never witnessed snowfall yet she hardly had any qualms about lugging kilos of scientific equipment along the frozen terrain of Antarctica. Mani and her team were sent to Antarctica to maintain the research station and collect data from Indian polar-orbit satellites. Scientists can observe 14 orbits from Antarctica, which is situated in the South Pole, unlike in many places in India where they could collect data from only two or three orbits. The data downloaded at the Indian research station in Antarctica was sent to Hyderabad-based National Remote Sensing Centre through a communication satellite.
The only woman in the all-male team, she said the team had to undergo intensive mental and physical training to survive in the icy continent, where temperatures can dive up to -90 degrees Celsius. After undergoing a medical check-up at AIIMS Delhi, Mani and her teammates spent two weeks at Auli in Uttarakhand and later a few days at Badrinath to acclimatize themselves to the extremely cold conditions. The scientists were sent on difficult treks with heavy backpacks on their backs for training. In an interview to English daily Times of India, the Isro scientist said, “The Antarctica mission was really a challenge. The climate there was very harsh. We were very careful about going out of our climate-controlled research station. One had to wear polar clothing. Even 2 or 3 hours out in the severe cold was too much and one had to come back immediately to warm themselves up.”
One For The Team
Lauding her team’s cooperation, Mani said that all team members had to adjust and things went on smoothly as none of them faced a big problem. In fact, her team members even organized a small celebration at the station on her birthday.
Image credit: The Hindu