Last night was Shiv Rathri for us Indians across the globe. Not only did the resident Indians stay awake, but also NRIs and PIOs spread across continents. The entire Indian diaspora if I may say so. Chandrayaan 2 launched July 22nd from Sriharikota, almost created history. The Lander Vikram separated from Rover Pragyan from the Chandrayaan 2 (the mother satellite in good shape orbiting the Moon) stage by stage in text book precision absolutely following the trajectory of projection. The Rough Break phase was torturous wait for even those of us with not much of astrophysics knowledge. Stage 1 of clearance success, stage 2, success, stage 3, overwhelming success… only stage 4 remained of the tension filled 15 seconds that was more like one hour when we waited with our bated breath for a signal from Vikram … but then followed a lengthy silence from the ISRO Control Room at Bangalore as the radio communication from Vikram snapped… (the landing time was calculated at 1.53 am September 7th)… a billion hearts broke as the nation plunged into despair. The grief was writ large in the faces of ISRO scientists and engineers. Chairman Dr. K Sivan who was in tears was embraced by an emotional Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji. What a moment to live for. The final crowing glory that was denied, no more mattered.
So is Chandrayaan 2 a failure? No way! Only 5% of the Mission was lost with losing contact with the Lander Vikram. Chandrayaan 2 will be orbiting the Moon for the next one year, its estimated life. The orbiter has already beamed pictures of space, Earth and Moon back to ISRO center. India was attempting in this second Moon Mission of ours to soft land on the polar end of the Moon where so far no other nation (of the four to five countries that have their flags on the moon already) had dared to venture. It was risky and the probability of failure was very high. It is almost the dark side of the moon. India’s first Moon mission Chandrayaan 1 landed its probe near the equator of the moon, favourite landing spot for astronauts and other landers.
Chandrayaan 2’s lander Vikram was as close as 2.1 km from the surface of the moon where it should have landed. Whether it crashed or what happened to it will be revealed only through the scientific data. It is impressive that our scientists, technicians and engineers have given us such a precision in landing. Down there lies mystery that so far mankind has not known of. Unexplored space. Simply anything is possible.
ISRO needs no intro and is much written about. So, just a pictorial journey here with ISRO that has captured the imagination of every single soul in this one billion club nation. From humble beginnings in Thumba to the present launch of Chandrayaan 2, India’s second Moon Mission to the darker side of the Moon, on the heels of Mangalyaan the Mars Mission, ISRO has come a long way. From being ridiculed and chastised for ambitious missions to being denied legit credit for original discoveries (such as water on the lunar surface by Chandrayaan 1), ISRO has not walked a bed of roses. After all, India’s first rocket was carried by bullock cart and on the pillion of a bicycle when we embarked on our space mission. ISRO has proved many critics wrong and in the interest of humanity, continues with its tradition of nationalistic and scientific pursuits undeterred by setbacks (such as a couple of unsuccessful attempts). ISRO’s Moon Mission 2 (Chandrayaan 2) cost India less than 50% of production costs for Hollywood’s ‘Avengers.’ (To be edited)