All the scientific instruments in Chandrayaan-3 were deployed, and the team is satisfied with the data that was collected, S Somanath, Chairperson of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the person who spearheaded the team for Chandrayaan-3, said. The data will now be analysed, which is a process that can take several years, he said, adding that data from Chandrayaan-1 is still producing publications.
In a freewheeling conversation with NDTV, Mr Somanath discussed challenges with the earlier moon mission, described in detail the workings of the lander and the rover, and his vision for the future of space research in India.
He called the Chandrayaan-2 mission “a very hard learning” for the organisation, and said they conducted rigorous review to understand what could have gone wrong.
“It was not possible to recover the debris and then study it, so it has to be now simulated and synthesised on the ground to look at the possibilities. It was a very tedious journey in which many of us, with various skill sets, participated, and that contributed to the understanding of the problem,” he said.
The ISRO chief said it was very clearly identified that it’s not just one issue that was causing the problem, but a chain of events.
“The primary point is that we were not able to simulate everything on the ground before Chandrayaan-2, but now we have similar and real scenarios, so we have huge amount of data and with the data we have more confidence to modify it. Once you look at modification, we need to look at whether we need to correct only those issues that we have seen or potential issues that can pop up later based on the understanding, and this is again debated for another long periods of time what should be done in extra hours, what type of strengthening that we need to do, and this is again debated over a long period of time. It also called for new developments of instruments, software simulations, and hundreds of tests that need to be done which you couldn’t do with Chandrayaan-2,” he said.
On the “hop test” successfully done by the moon lander, Mr Somanath explained that it was a step in the direction of future sample return and human missions.
“Ultimately, why we go to the moon is to look at how it can be useful to humanity. For that, we need to go to the moon and come back, it’s not just landing there. We need to come back home and then take material back and forth. So, we looked at how we can use this success and make an outline of another opportunity to take it off from the moon and go to orbit,” he said.
Stressing on the need for such missions, he said if humanity is going to travel beyond earth, habitat creation is needed on the moon, Mars, and exoplanets, and Indians must be there.
“We think of ourselves as so inferior today, that we are not technologically advanced, not financially very powerful, and we always think that we are poor, so we can’t invest in all of this. I believe that this has to go, for a nation which thinks that they are the one who are creators of knowledge,” he added.
Even countries like US and the USSR became big only because they started dreaming about becoming a world power, Mr Somanath said, but clarified the type of world power he wants India to become.
“The question of the world power is very, very important. Not the power that we always talk about, like the military power, the strength to capture others. I believe India should become a technology leader in the future, because when you are a technology leader you are naturally somebody who has no second thought about possibilities,” the ISRO chief said.
S Somanath also batted for private investment in space research, arguing that we can’t be a technologically powerful nation without being the primary source of some of the knowledge in the field.
“I think it can happen, not from government, only from private entrepreneurs where they sponsor research. I am a very strong believer on this, that unless big players in the industry invest in research and development, and bank on for their commercial outcome, nothing can change,” he said.