It was a good day trip to drive down the NH5 and visit Sriharikota. Sriharikota, which is about 100 km to the North of Chennai houses, India’s rocket launching and space centre. It was experience to watch the Rocket launch that happened on March, 28th last week. On clear days, the drive down the highway is smooth. The NH5 connects Chennai and Sullurupeta in Andhra Pradesh. Sullurupeta can be reached by a Bus from the Koyembedu bus stand in the city as well. A right turn at Sullurupeta takes you to a well laid tar road which connects the island of Sriharikota off the Bay of Bengal. The island is cut off from the main land and is surrounded by the Pulicat Lake.
During the summer months, the lake is a dry bed and presents a surreal landscape which appears to be straight from some of the locales of the Hollywood movies. Miles of empty arid, lake bed. It is an experience to feel the emptiness. Down the road, as you proceed towards the centre, you are stopped by the security just about 5 km from the main station as it is the rocket launch day and unless you have a special pass as a visitor, you are allowed in. You are diverted to take a detour off the main road on to a muddy road. We were told that this would be a good place to watch the launch.
There are no shelters. You just wait and look out in the open towards the location of the rocket launch centre. A good 5 km of empty and dry lake bed separates us with patches water puddles here and there and all you can hear is the gush of the wind striking your ears. It is an experience in itself to be there. As we wait patiently, a small group of people also arrive to watch and savour the experience. The excitement builds, and at exactly, the correct stipulated time of 5.19 pm the rockets lift off happens. A fantastic view, as the rocket takes off majestically into sky with a very bright plume of orange –red flame at its tail. The orange plume appears as a dazzling bright column of light against the blue sky. A viewing experience which is not so common in our busy city lives. In about 10-15 seconds, it vanishes into the stratosphere. A thundering roar is heard about 10 seconds after the lift off. The rocket puts into orbit, India’s navigational satellite which would provide the Global positioning system and service. It is stated that the next rocket launch to launch another satellite would be in June, this year.