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