Ex-Isro chief says former PM was catalyst behind project.
Sriharikota Range: India’s moonwalk programme began during the celebrations of a giant leap which changed the country’s image globally: Pokhran II nuclear tests. And the late Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, not only encouraged space scientists to go ahead with the mission to explore the Moon but also used his proficiency in Sanskrit to rechristen it as “Chandrayaan,” rather than “Somayaan.” For space scientists, his decision came as a surprise as they had picked ‘Somayaan’ from a Sanskrit verse quoted in Rigveda: “O Moon! We should be able to know you through our intellect. You enlighten us through the right path.”
“Mr Vajpayee said the mission should be called Chandrayaan, and not Somayaan, as the country has emerged as an economic power, and will make many exploratory journeys to the Moon,” reminisced Dr K. Kasturirangan, who, as chairman, ISRO, was among the Who’s
Who invited to New Delhi in May 1999 to make presentations to mark the first anniversary of Pokhran II.
He told the Deccan Chronicle: “It took four years to plan the mission, and another four years to implement it.”
The project was discussed elaborately in various forums and committees before it got the final go ahead in 2003. It was during that year Mr Vajpayee announced the Moon mission, Chandrayaan, in his Independence Day address.
Dr Kasturirangan’s successor, G. Madhavan Nair, took the task forward, inviting foreign collaboration on a large scale. The upshot: Chandrayaan-1 carried six instruments of various space agencies including Nasa, European Space Agency (ESA), and the Bulgarian Space Agency, in addition to five designed by ISRO. The discovery of water by Chandrayaan-1 triggered the second surge of exploratory missions to Moon.
On Monday’s launch, Dr Kasturirangan remarked: “I feel very proud today. It is a demonstration of our capability and determination to take on challenges in such cutting-edge technologies.”
As M. Annadurai, former project director, Chandrayaan-1, remarked India’s mission to the Moon has not been a case of reinventing the wheel or duplicating efforts already made by other countries to unravel mysteries about origin of the Solar System or in garnering data which could help build an international space station on lunar surface to support a manned flight to Mars.