Chandrayaan 2: How Narendra Modi magic turned temporary setback for ISRO into tangible hope of seeing flag on Moon
Narendra Modi consoled the ISRO chief K Sivan and spoken to the scientists hours after the Chandrayaan 2 lost contact with Vikram Lander, turning a moment of great sadness into one of tangible hope
ISRO’s Chandrayaan 2 lost contact with Vikram Lander just minutes before it’s soft-landing on Moon
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to all the ISRO scientists and said the nation is proud of them
Chandrayaan 2 entered the Moon's orbit on 20 August, a month after take-off
A glitch is not a failure. It happens. The thing is you go back to the drawing board and give it a second shot. Maybe ten tries.
Living outside India, our patriotism tends to have an extra fervor so we were, like millions in India, awake at night watching the moon excursion of the Rover, or so we hoped.
And when Vikram let go of the surly bonds of the Orbiter with the Rover on board for the final lap, we applauded along with the rows of scientists at ISRO and all of India. This was the tricolor at its best.
When inside fifteen minutes, the atmosphere in the mission control room changed palpably and concern and confusion dripped from a hundred odd faces. Miles away from Dubai to Denver, we felt that jolt of reality. Something had gone wrong.
As my grown-up married daughters began to softly choke on emotion, the Chairman of ISRO, the unassuming genius K Sivan, came on the internal sound system and told his team what happened and then we watched the Prime Minister Narendra Modi leave, stoic and solemn. We guessed by the expressions that Vikram had gone renegade.
Despite an incredibly hectic schedule, returning from Vladivostok at 4 am on Friday, going in for a telecom conversation with Mongolia, then tucking in a full day of work and being present at ISRO for the final phase, the prime minister was alert and awake. (Someone should tell us what diet he is on.)
Four hours later, while India slept, Modi was back at ISRO chinning up the disconsolate ISRO scientists who had pulled an all-nighter, and when he gave his 56-inch chest to Chairman Sivan to lean on in an impulsive gesture of warmth and belief that went on for a minute, he literally hugged the whole nation and deflected so beautifully the sense of dismay, literally turning a moment of great sadness into one of tangible hope. There will be a tomorrow and Orbiter is still up there and will be for a year, circling the moon. We have not failed, so let’s not go there.
— ANI (@ANI) September 7, 2019
The gesture was buoyed by a spontaneous speech so gung-ho in its texture it could have been a do or die military mission. Narendra Modi not only acted like a prime minister, he was a leader. His demeanour stopped the ‘feel lousy, feel embarrassed’ tide and turned it into one of pride that we got so far.
Others, too, have fallen at the gate, then stood tall and made ‘to strive, to seek and not to yield’ more than a mantra, a way of life. Remember the Challenger disaster in 1968? A year later, Apollo 12 was hit on the gantry by lightning. In 1971, Suyuz 11 crew died from a faulty valve issue. Then, the 2003 incident when Columbia disintegrated with Indian origin astronaut Kalpana Chawla on board. There have been dozens of incidents - big and small - in this incredible adventure called space exploration.
And Modi got it right. It is still a work in progress and we are on the cutting edge. We not only went up, we stayed up for six weeks and we got into a lunar orbit and everything worked well till the last second. Maybe next time or the time after or even after that, we will get that right and there will, in our lifetimes, be an Indian flag on the moon.
For now, learn the lessons, for there are many to be learnt and one of them is style and class when things do not go right. And love him or not, Modi taught us well this morning.
Much more salutary than the so-called national Hindi news channels which made a custard of news and thought it valid to mock Pakistan for being so far behind. They went on and on and someone should tell them Pakistan has no role in this tryst with destiny that India had. Even bringing it into the mix was absurd in the extreme.
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