Every Indian salutes ISRO’s remarkable distinct, dedication and splendid efforts which swelled our chests. Although hours after India’ s dream of placing a lander spacecraft on the moon crashed on Saturday morning, Indian Space Research Organisation’ s team associated with the still orbiting Chandrayaan-2 mission were looking for clues in the last minutes of data from the lander ‘Vikram’. The lander was to have set itself down on the moon’s surface at 1.55 a.m. on Saturday. It had been descending for 12 minutes. However, three minutes before lunar touch down, it lost contact with the earth and went blank. It was 2.1 km above the moon’s surface then, ISRO said soon after it detected the setback around 2 a.m.
It may not be exaggeration to say that ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 mission is inedible and inspirational for upcoming new generation. It was around 56 years ago, on November 21,1963 that a small rocket took off from Thumba on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, announcing the birth of the modern space age in India. The sleepy palm-fringed village soon came to be known as Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launch Station (TERLS) and later became Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC).
Till 1963 the obscure village of Thumba would not have merited a second look. A quintessential Kerala fishing hamlet with thatched huts, coconut groves and peaceful sea, it was an unlikely setting for rocket launch station. It did have something that caught the interest of Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India’s space programme. A small church dedicated to Mary Magdalene that was located on Earth’s magnetic equator.
In the initial stages, Thumba had no canteen or facilities of any sort, so the scientists would cycle every day to the railway station at Trivandrum for their breakfast and dinner. In those days the only jeep was always busy, so the scientists had to either walk or use a cycle to move within the range. Even rocket parts and payloads were transported by bullock carts and bicycle to the launch pad. It was in these assuming settings that India staged its first launch – that of a NIKE- Apache rocket supplied by NASA. This is how it happened.
When the rocket was rolled out on to the launch pad, the sultry air was thick with tension. And almost immediately the things started going the awry. As the rocket was being hoisted onto the launcher, the hydraulic crane developed a leak. However, it was manually shifted into position. Next, remote system of the launcher was malfunctioned. Once this was fixed. Finally the things seemed in order. As the alarm sounded to clear the area around the launch pad, the team of scientists held their breath.
At the 6:25 pm, the world was watching as the rocket streaked away into the gathering dusk. Minutes later, a sodium vapour cloud had emerged in the sky high above, tinted orange by the setting sun. India had successfully put its first signature on space.
So we all Indians are standing with ISRO’s failure and success. Someone says that the failure is a first step of success and those who try can achieve success.
Muhammed Umar Qasmi
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)