Real suspense on September 6 when Chandrayaan-2 tries to soft land on lunar surface: ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: On the eve of Chandrayaan 2 – India’s second moon mission- former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan believes that it would be the prelude to the next mission. Even while insisting that Chandrayaan 1 and 2 are ‘more or less the same’, Nambi says soft landing on the surface would be the challenge for Chandrayaan 2. 

He underscored the need for India to come up with a definite space programme. The Padma Bhushan awardee opined that India should take the lead to form a consortium like Asian Space Agency (ASA), on the lines of the European Space Agency (ESA). 

On a comparison between Chandrayaan 1 and 2, Nambi Narayanan said it’s more or less the same. “Up to the orbiter, it’s the same. The only difference is Chandrayan I was carried out by Mark II. Now it’s being carried out by Mark III. Non-availability is the only reason we went ahead with Mark II during Chandrayaan 1 and limited our requirement to crash landing. Mark III can carry more weight and has a capability of 3.5 tonnes. We wanted to establish that we could manage a mission of this nature, reach the lunar surface, drop and soft land on the surface of the moon, and also make an object to move,” he said. 

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According to Nambi, the real suspense would start only on September 6-7, by the time it is ready to be dropped. “I would otherwise consider this as a prelude to the next mission. If you look at ISRO’s own policies, it has two important segments. One is satellites; the other deep space – Mangalyaan, Chandrayaan and similar missions,” he said.

“There seems to be a lack of some sort of a definite, comprehensive plan in place. There is the Gaganyaan, which involves attempting to send astronauts to space. But again, these are only bits and pieces. Mangalyaan works on a very complex phenomenon. You have to jump from one orbit to the other, a very difficult process. I don’t think Chnadrayaan 1 and 2 are as complicated as Mangalyaan. But here, something is being dropped. These are needed technologies, which others have tried a few years back.”

He asserted that Americans have had a man on the moon. “I recall it was when I was in Princeton – that Apollo 11 carried Neil Armstrong to the moon. In fact, Neil Armstrong had come to Princeton afterwards. The Apollo missions went up to 21, I believe. 10-odd astronauts have walked the lunar surface till date. We are yet to begin on that front. So the present opportunity should be fully utilized. Eventually, outer space exploration would require a lot of money. So, it’d be better if we collaborate with others, and pool together the finances. The ESA comprises 13 countries. Even a small country like Belgium has half a per cent share. India does not need to tread this path alone,” he added

“There are so many like us -Sri Lanka, Male Islands, Indonesia, Vietnam, the entire Gulf. I think the Gulf would prefer to work with India rather than others. And if ASA does ever come into existence, China too could join forces with us. That would be a very good move. But I am not sure whether either side would be willing to make the first move,” he rues.

Nambi Narayan, one of the chief architects of the Vikas engine – used by ISRO for many key missions including Chandrayaan 1 – vouches for its built-in reliability. “It has never failed to date. Vikas was one of the best workhorse engines ISRO has ever seen. I don’t think it has ever failed. Till now, it has flown more than 46 missions. Though the first launch was a failure, the Vikas engine didn’t fail. I used to boast that it has built-in reliability. Even if it fails in future, someone would have done it on purpose,” he avers.