KOCHI: Chandrayaan-II went agonisingly close to the moon’s surface before it suffered a setback but the expedition was a success in igniting the interest of the scientific community across the world. National Aeronautics and Space and Administration (NASA) of the United States, considered leader in space exploration, lauded the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and said it was “keen to jointly explore the solar system with ISRO”.
If NASA was excited about the expedition, how has the young and aspiring scientists among students looked at the project? Classroom catches up with the young ones to find.
“The final margin by which India was able to land the probe on the moon is a testament to India’s space prowess,” said Ankit Shairaj Class XI student of Rajagiri Public School, Kalamassery. “The orbiter of the mission will continue to monitor the moon for up to seven years and will collect vital details for future efforts to land on the moon. It never was a failure.”
That Chandrayaan-II was the first attempt to send a rover to the south pole of the moon and India was only the fourth nation even to make an attempt to land a probe on the moon after China, US and Russia have done us proud, Ankit said. “The ISRO has a number of missions coming up, most notably the Gaganyaan Mission which hopes to send astraunauts to space from India. ISRO certainly has the prowess and vision to inspire future generation of scientists,” he said.
“The whole nation watched with bated breath the launch of Chandrayaan-II and its success, though not in full, brought waves of joy,” said Ankit’s batchmate Tessa Abraham Elenjikal. “For the first time in Indian space mission history, the ISRO expedition was spearheaded by two women, mission director Muthayya Vanitha and Ritu Kalidhal. They deserve appreciation for their hard work.” Tessa is gung-ho when she talks about ISRO: It’s capable to discovering new planets, galaxies and stars as well and it can churn out innovative ideas as well. And Chandrayaan-II has lit the spark that would set the fire of discovery to burn.
“The leadership that Vikram Sarabhai gave our space mission is indeed valuable and ISRO has scaled to heights since its inception in 1969,” said Abhinav V. Pillai of Christ Nagar School, Kowdiar, Thiruvanantha-puram. “Today we are competing with economically advanced nations in space while we employ advanced technologies to solve the real problems of man and society.”
Yes, it was a disappointment that Vikram Lander lost contact with the orbiter 2.1 km prior to landing but 90 per cent of the mission could be accomplished, he said. “The functioning orbiter is still our hope. The failure part of the mission will be the stepping stone for the success in future.”
“Being the granddaughter of one of the first female staff of ISRO, I grew up hearing the tales of India’s space research,” said Karthiyayani Menon from Christ Nagar School. “Her memoirs of working with A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and the ISRO’s launches were deeply inspiring. It was a thrill to watch her keep track of the activities of ISRO and VSSC.”
Karthiyayani said the success of Mangalyan prompted her to keenly look into Chandrayaan-II. “Though it is not a full success story, it is reassuring about India’s space prowess and that we are sure to land where we intended to,” she said. “That Chandrayaan-II was manufactured using Indian technology inspires us to be self-sufficient. I wish I could be there with our scientists in their next attempt. Hats off to ISRO scientists for their untiring spirit.”
For Harinandan Kesavan of Class XII of Bhavan’s VIdya Mandir, Manvila, Thiruvananthapuram, the last minutes developments were a bolt from the blue. “We all sat glued to the TV sets to watch live the happenings on September 7 with bated breath,” he said. “The nail-biting moment when Vikram lost communication with the ground station barely 2.1 kms away from the lunar surface left most of us confused.” Harinandan, is, however, buoyed by the reaction of people both in India and elsewhere. “It was positive and encouraging,” he said. “I feel India should cash in on this goodwill. It should move ahead with the successor to Chandrayaan-2 and modifications to the Mk III.”
Lunar missions have much more than what meets the eye, according to Anantha Krishnan S., Std XII, Bhavan’s VIdya Mandir, Manvila. “It has always been clear that if Vikram aced the landing, there would be glory for India. But that didn’t happen. Now there is a distinct possibility that various national space programmes will establish bases on the moon ostensibly for scientific purposes but whose activities will include mining and supporting the exploration of more distant bodies, including Mars. India cannot be left behind.” Anantha Krishnan suggests that ISRO must consider commissioning a 'Chandrayaan-III' mission, incorporating the lessons from the analysis of Vikram's descent data. “This is not as difficult as it may seem because, in such critical missions, there is usually a backup that can be made flight-worthy,” he said.
Chelsy Ann of Class X at SBOA Public Sr Sec School, South Chittoor, Kochi, has not given up hopes on Chandrayaan-II yet. “For the past few days my thoughts and prayers were with those scientists in ISRO who are toiling day and night to re-establish contact with the lander which is laying tilted on the lunar surface,” she said. “As experts say, when days pass by the chances for them to succeed in receiving signals from the lander are dwindling.”
She says the low cost of execution of Rs 978 crore compared with its contemporary ventures of other nations makes the mission a success, despite the setback. “The most awaited moment from now on is when our tricolour flutters on the moon,” said Chelsy said.
S. Devasankar, Class XII, SBOA Public Sr Sec School lists Chandrayaan-II as a giant leap for India’s space research. “The hunger that failure causes is a much greater force than the happiness that success brings,” he said. “Chandrayaan-II will inspire the youth of our nation to pursue science. It will encourage the government to invest in science and technology, which will help in the future missions.”
Sidharth V, Class X, SBOA Sr Sec. School has a word for the scientists. “As a nation, we all are proud of them, for they gave 1.38 billion people the confidence and courage to dream when nobody believed in us,” he said. “Getting this far was not easy. Even NASA had 10 failed attempts before its success.”