Scientists, in­clud­ing Isro’s, ques­tion Si­van’s 98% claim

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Front Page - TIMES NEWS NET­WORK

Chen­nai/New Delhi: Soon af­ter In­dian Space Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion (Isro) chair­man K Si­van re­it­er­ated on Satur­day that Chan­drayaan-2 was a 98% suc­cess (cit­ing the or­biter), some se­nior scientists have chal­lenged the claim, one of them post­ing on so­cial me­dia his thoughts on lead­er­ship and rocket science.

A se­nior space sci­en­tist said such claims “with­out any deep in­tro­spec­tion make us a laugh­ing stock in front of the world”. Isro sources said Vikram, the Chan­drayaan-2 lan­der, prob­a­bly crashed at great speed and was lost for­ever. Moon land­ing was the stated high­point of the mis­sion.

The talk­ing point on Sun­day was a so­cial me­dia post by Ta­pan Misra, ad­viser to the Isro chair­man, who took a dig at Si­van’s lead­er­ship with­out nam­ing him. “Lead­ers in­spire, they do not man­age,” wrote Misra, who was moved out of the post of di­rec­tor of Space Ap­pli­ca­tions Cen­tre af­ter Si­van took over as Isro chief.

“When you see a sudden spurt in em­pha­sis on ad­her­ing to rules, sudden in­crease in pa­per­work, fre­quent meet­ings, wind­ing dis­cus­sions, you surely know lead­er­ship is be­com­ing a rare ma­te­rial in your in­sti­tu­tion. In­sti­tu­tions do not evolve with time as they stop in­no­vat­ing. Ul­ti­mately, they be­come liv­ing fos­sils, foot­notes in his­tory,” read the post.

Mean­while, Bharat Thakkar, 77, a US-based vet­eran of qual­ity con­trol and re­li­a­bil­ity of sys­tems, has raised sev­eral fun­da­men­tal ques­tions about the lan­der, re­ports IANS.

“A post­mortem must be car­ried out in terms of me­chan­i­cal de­sign of Vikram. What was the fac­tor of safety used in the dy­namic me­chan­i­cal de­sign of Vikram? Was it even con­sid­ered?” Thakkar said.

As­pace sci­en­tist with ex­per­tise in moon mis­sions told TOI on con­di­tion of anonymity there were tech­ni­cal mis­takes in the mis­sion. “Had Isro gone with a sin­gle thruster rather than five thrusters, the tech­nol­ogy would have been sim­pler”.

On chal­lenges of han­dling mul­ti­ple thrusters, he said, “It is not easy to equalise thrust in all five en­gines all the time. We could have planned for a sin­gle en­gine.” He alleged that Isro top brass side-lined com­pe­tent peo­ple who were part of Chan­drayaan-1. “Peo­ple who were never part of Chan­drayaan-1 mis­sion are now part of the expert panel tak­ing key de­ci­sions on In­dia’s lu­nar mis­sion,” he said.

Misra, who played a key role in the in­dige­nous de­vel­op­ment of radar imag­ing and hy­per­spec­tral imag­ing pay­loads, wrote: “If your scooter tyre gets punc­tured on road, you can bring a mechanic to re­pair it and get go­ing. But if some­thing wrong hap­pens to space­craft or rock­ets, you just have to for­get it. Near 100% re­li­a­bil­ity is the cry­ing need of space science and tech­nol­ogy.”

Stress­ing on sig­nif­i­cance of lan­der sim­u­la­tions, Misra wrote, “Once you send ma­chines to space, you can­not ac­cess it in per­son to carry out cor­rec­tive mea­sures. You must be able to imag­ine all pos­si­ble be­hav­iours of space­craft in space, in harsh and un­for­giv­ing en­vi­ron­ment. So, we have to test it in all pos­si­ble imag­in­able con­di­tions.”

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