Attempts by Religious Obscurantists to Tarninsh success of Science and  Moon mission

chandrayaan scientists tirupati
ISRO Scientist at Tirupati (Photo:IANS)

Successful launch of Chandrayan 3, the latest mission of Indian Space  Research Organization  to moon is a remarkable scientific endeavour.  It  took off  from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh state  on the afternoon of  July 14th. With the successful launch, India is bidding to become  the fourth country to execute a controlled landing on the moon and first to touch down the unexplored, rugged southern pole sufce of  Moon. The journey will take over 40 days (one moon day is equal to 4 earthen days) and  Chandrayan 3 is expected to land on moon in August.

However, a day before  the  launch of Chandrayan 3, a team of leading ISRO scientists took the rocket prototype to Tirupati temple and  put it at the feet of  Lord Venkateswara, seeking blessings. This act of pseudoscience has tarnished the success story of moon mission and outraged  many Indians.

Chandrayaan-3 mission holds immense possibilities for India’s  future space exploration missions. By showcasing its technological capabilities, ISRO, India, is ambitious to establish itself as a prominent player in the global space community.

Chandrayaan-3 comprises of three essential components: the lander module Vikram,  the propulsion module and a  robot rover. The lander  enables soft landing on the Moon, deploying the rover for   collecting scientific information. The robot lander will  walk on the  southern (pole) surface of moon for 14 days  and collects vital scientific data. The rover has powerful instruments such as the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), which will analyze lunar soil and rocks for elemental composition, and the Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) to examine the chemical makeup of the lunar surface. The lander  is also  equipped with Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE), which will provide vital information on the moon’s thermal conductivity and temperature. Also equipped are  Instruments for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA), aims to detect moonquakes. The Langmuir Probe will estimate the density and variation of plasma in the moon’s environment, and the  embedded sensors in the Laser Retroreflector  will enable precise distance measurements using laser technology.  The collected sophisticated data will be sent back to ISRO in India  for further  research investigations. Additionally, the equipment  collects data about lunar atmosphere help prospects  for future manned missions and possible habitation in near future to enhance our understanding of the lunar surface.

Chandrayan was blasted off to the lunar orbit  by LVM-3, the propulsion module capable to lift very heavy payload of 2,148 kg Chandrayan 3. The launch vehicle LMV-3 was supported by a powerful liquid fuel cryogenic engine, built indigenously by India. It’s remarkable because in the past  United States   refused supply cryogenic engine technology to India fearing i’s emergence a global space power.

Launching of earlier two moon  missions – Chandrayan 1 ( 2009)  and Chandrayan 2 ( 2019)   immensely  helped to design and execute  Chandrayan 3 voyage.   Chandrayaan-2 in 2019, faced during its soft landing attempt, resulting in a  major setback for ISRO. However, this time  ISRO scientific team led by  Sundarsan, Vetuvelu, Ritu Srivatsava and others used this setback as an opportunity for learning and improvement and designed  Perespective landing of Vikram lander on rugged  southern moon surface. The lander ‘Vikram’  named after the father of India’s space programme, the late Vikram Sarabhai — had successfully got separated from the orbiter in preparation for a landing on the moon. Ofcourse, the major goal of Chandrayaan-3 is to land safely on the lunar surface,

It should be noted that the budget of  Chandrayan 3  mission was  nearly  Rs 650 crores, much lesser to Rs 700 crores, spent on  making the recent Bollywood  religious film Adipurush.

With successful launch of Chandrayan 3 and possible controlled landing on the moon  and India becoming a fourth nation after United states, erstwhile USSR (Russia), China United States is  luring  India in to it’s  space explorations countering  China- Russia. NASA led Space explorations.  During PM   Modi’s recent visit to USA, he agreed with President Biden and agreed to collaborate  with NASA led  space  explorations.  It should be remembered that only two decades back  USA had rejected to provide  cryogenic liquid  fuel technologies, fearing India’s emergence a global player in space research.  Whereas erstwhile USSR extended all it’s technical support and guidance to Indian space  programmes  since inception of Indian Space Research organization (ISRO) in 1969.

Till now  India  launched different  satellites like INSAT series  to support it’s  Telecommunications, Mobile, Internet network Spectrum data, remote sensing for agriculture, fisheries, weather forecasting. Also supported Agni missiles and other  defence related applications. However, with successful launching of  Mangalyan, Chandrayan and future  missions to Mars and Venus,  India is  entering in to extraterrestrial basic space research.

Religious Obscurantism

However, disturbed  by success of Chandrayan 3, religious obscurantists in th e country  led by right wing forces  attempted to tarnish  the image of  Space programmes supported by science. Just a day before the launch of Chandrayan 3,  a section of scientists  from ISRO took the  rocket prototype to temple of Lord Venkateswara in Tirupati and performed  religious ceremonies (Pooja),  seeking blessings for Chandrayan’s  successful launch. This of course  insulted the scientific and research efforts by scientists in making  the Chandrayan 3 , a success. Already  themes such as Darwinism, Periodic table, Euclidian geometry, environment and several parts of Indian history  were recently deleted from school text books by ministry of education. The war on science is deliberately waged to suppress questioning, reason and critical thinking among  budding young Indians with an aim  to drag the country back in to ancient dark ages.

The successful  launch of moon mission and execution of a soft landing would mark a significant milestone in India’s space achievements and pave the way for future space missions. Achievements in  space research and science should be directed to address  daily  needs of people and not for profit seeking space tourism and military advances. Any attempt  by religious obscurantists  to  tarnish  spirit of scientific enquiry  should be resisted strongly by sensible Indians.

Dr. Soma Marla, Pricncipal Scientist (Retd), ICAR, N.Delhi.

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