The Moon mission chief saw a couple of reverses, but the country’s space journey is on course.
Moon man: K. Sivan with models of ISRO rockets at the Sriharikota launch centre (Photo: Reuben Singh)
For Kailasavadivoo Sivan, 62, who joined the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1982 when the country was bracing itself to join the spacefarers club, leading the Moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, as ISRO’s chairman was a rare fulfilling moment in his career.
Though the hopes of landing a spacecraft on the Moon didn’t materialise after the Vikram lander failure, the evolution of the space exploration programme is no mean achievement. Still, the aerospace engineer, son of a simple farmer of Tarakkanvillai-a hamlet in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district-who sold a portion of his land to fund Sivan’s engineering education, could not hide his emotions when consoled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the wee hours of September 7.
Chandrayaan-2 was India’s first attempt at a moon landing. Only three countries-the United States, the erstwhile USSR and China-have managed to place a spacecraft on the Moon so far. While the Vikram lander may not have landed successfully on the Moon, the orbiter itself is functioning effectively and will continue to give out data for over seven years that will help improve our understanding of the challenges in journeying to the Moon and beyond. This is even as the premier space agency tries again to land on the Moon.
ISRO, under Sivan’s stewardship, has a busy launch schedule ahead with 13 missions-six involving launch vehicles and seven satellites-before March. It will soon be launching radar imaging satellites RISAT-2BR1 and RISAT-2BR2. “Besides these projects, ISRO will soon launch Aditya-1 through which we will be able to gather more information about the origin of the Sun and solar storms,” says Sivan.