NEW DELHI – It's 10 am on a snowy Delhi day, and it's time to take space classes.
Like many other middle school students, Veronica Sodhi, a dreamy 12-year-old, says space class is her favorite subject, but on Friday there was something more special.
India is ready to send a robotic robot around the South Pole of the Moon, a huge leap forward for its space program. The rocket is launched Monday at 2:51 and anticipation feeds national pride.
Indian children send good luck messages on YouTube to the National Space Agency; VPs are converging on the launch site in an isolated coastal area near Chennai; the little six-wheeled rover crawls in the front pages of every newspaper; and viewers exploit patriotism with special shows on "India's greatest space adventure".
At the K.R. Mangalam World School near New Delhi, a place for children of the upper middle class – there is an ice rink on the ground floor – Veronica and her classmates were pumped.
"Children," asked Harjeet Kaur, a space teacher, "Why did we call this mission" Chandrayaan "?
Veronica got up so quickly that she almost flipped the chair behind her.
"Because-that-means-moon-and-vehicle," she said in a breath.
"Everyone applauds for her," said the professor. "Is there another country that sent a mission to the south pole of the moon?"
"No!" Screamed the students.
"We are all proud of the Indians, are not we, students?"
"Really, I can not hear you."
"YES MY LADY!"
"It would be really cool to walk on the moon," Veronica murmured a little later. "I mean, a bit like trekking, but really cool."
A lunar mission is a bold move for all countries, but especially for those who still have hundreds of millions of people in poverty.
But that is the puzzle of India. It is also a home of modernity, a source of scientific and technical prowess. Its software developers are among the largest in the world and its universities send thousands of extremely talented scientists and engineers every year, experts in the most advanced technologies.
The space suits him.
A big reason, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who reelected in May, his popularity is such that he has pushed India more powerful and assertive, eager to claim his place as a superpower.
Just weeks before the start of the elections – and commentators have found the timing a bit suspicious – Mr Modi announced that India had just shot down a satellite whistling at 17,000 km / h at an altitude 150 km above the Earth. Few countries can do it.
This is not even the first lunar mission in India. In 2008, the lunar spacecraft Chandrayaan I did not land, but discovered water molecules on the moon.
The moon really benefits a bit of a rebirth on Earth. China is working on its own mission to the south pole of the moon. Scientists think that there could be a lot of ice water out there as well as helium-3, a future source of energy supposed to be plentiful for our little neighbor.
Many Indians believe that this mission, which will run more than 200,000 miles, marks a turning point in the history of their country. They use almost the same words to describe the importance of Chandrayaan: "We will now be the fourth space power!" They follow after the United States, Russia and China.
"India would like to have little space in space," said Sunita Nagpal, director of the K.R. School Mangalam.
To help raise the next generation of astronauts and go beyond the official science curriculum of the government (which a private school director has described as sneaky for a rickshaw shootout son), many private schools have looked for new ways to teach space.
Enter Space India. Founded in 2001, this for-profit educational organization conducts workshops, field trips, and regular astronomy, rocket, and space exploration classes in public and private schools.
Many schools do not have space teachers and recruit Space India instructors, who even organize night camps for the night in many places far from the cities.
This week, his lessons focused on the moon and the Chandrayaan II mission.
The entire mission costs less than $ 150 million. The orbiter will save fuel by making increasingly wider orbits around the Earth before being captured by the gravity of the moon and returned to lunar orbit.
It takes a lot more time than the forehand of Apollo missions, which cost billions (the fact that humans are with us was not cheap either). The Chandrayaan plane will not grow on the surface of the moon until September.
It is difficult to neglect the synergy with 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission this month.
"But it's only a coincidence," said Vivek Singh, spokeswoman for the Indian Space Research Organization, the Indian version of NASA. "We were late."
The Indians wanted to start two or three years ago with a Russian rover, but when the Russians gave in, they decided to build theirs, which took a while.
The hardest part, everyone agrees, will be the soft landing. The plan is for a landing craft to lower the orbiter and gently lower on the surface of the powdery moon. Then, the small six-wheeled rover (which weighs about 60 pounds) will come out.
When the Israelis tried to carry out a similar lunar mission in April, it was not as effective. The communications went out, leaving people gathered in front of the control room with tears in their eyes. The lorry was crushed.
To appreciate these difficulties, students in space class at K.R. Mangalam schools were asked to make polystyrene bowls with folded sheets of paper glued to the side to cushion the lunar landing gear. The trick was to drop the bowls from their desk and land them without the astronaut – a pen cap – falling down.
In the space class at another school in the Delhi area, students made rockets from plastic soda bottles. The teaching style was the same, a very gay Socratic method, with another Space India instructor, Heena Bhatia, standing in front of the classroom screaming questions and waiting for quick communication of the facts.
"Do you know the basic elements of the rocket? Who will tell me?
A boy stood up and let out the answers like verbal bullets.
"Nose cone. Body. Fins. "
"Everyone applauds for Akshay," beamed the professor. "Now, do you want to make your own rockets?"
"Yes!" Shouted the class.
"Sir will give you materials to make your own rocket," said the professor, gesturing to a man with tattooed forearms, immersed in a deep concentration by sticking together small flippers – he was an assistant of Space India.
All children dream of stars. But in New Delhi, it is often difficult to see.
This is because the air pollution is very bad and the lights in the city are very bright. The result is an opaque and blurred night sky.
"But on the moon, it will be so beautiful," said Veronica, the bright eyes of this special 12-year-old light. "It will be so dark and calm. There will be so many stars. "
"I do not know why I've always had this interest in the moon," she said. "But I do, I want to be close to it, not on YouTube, nor on the Internet, I've always dreamed of being an astronaut, I want to make my India proud of me."