We have sunk to the deepest in our self-respect and self-image. Every little thing needs an investment in emotion, religious tomfoolery and communal polarization, for any of us to feel good about ourselves…
Scientific pursuits need no celebration beyond the ‘yessss’ that follows an achievement. But we have pathetically reduced it to a grand circus, whose grandeur is the product of not painstaking research and the pursuit of Science, but the achievement of a religio-political ideology.
As much as there is no need to raise the Chandrayan-II landing to grand opera, there is no need to reduce the failure of the Vikram lander to derisive laughter at the ringmaster of a permanent theatre of the absurd playing around us all the time.
The Chandrayaan-II has been a spectacular success for many reasons…
1. We have used a low power GSLV rocket, good enough to park a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, but entirely out of the league of the US Saturn-V rocket engine, to catapult a space vehicle into moon orbit, using the Earth’s gravitation as the motive force. This is the triumph of mathematics over the brute force of a Saturn-V rocket. This is what scientific elegance is all about.
2. We have been able to develop the telemetry required to monitor and control 3-axis motion very precisely, at interstellar distances, where telemetry signals, travelling at the speed of light, take several seconds to traverse the distances involved…
3. We have mastered the injection of space vehicles into orbits of space objects other than our planet. This requires precise mathematics and velocity control at great distances, to not spin away from the orbit or not crash into the space object.
4. With Chandrayaan-II, we have mastered the command module and lander module separation and autonomous operation of the lander module thereafter.
5. We have failed in landing the lander module due to what appears to be communications failure. There is enough telemetry data to hopefully give us an insight into the reason for this failure and set it right for our next shot at the Moon.
No, Chandrayaan-II is not a failure by a long shot. It is in fact, a spectacular success for Indian Science and for the acquisition of a technology that is not available for love or money.
There is a need for ISRO to disseminate more information on its programmes in an open-source manner. As NASA believes, the knowledge gleaned by ISRO should be the property of every Indian.