ISRO and India’s giant leap in space exploration

Space programmes are in effect a catalyst for engaging young talent in high-technology sectors

By Densil Vincent

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An illustration of Chandrayaan-3's Pragyan rover roaming on the lunar surface. — File photo
An illustration of Chandrayaan-3's Pragyan rover roaming on the lunar surface. — File photo

Published: Thu 30 May 2024, 6:09 PM

When India’s Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft made a historic landing on the moon’s south pole last August, a unique configuration of engines ensured that the craft did not kick up any dust during the descent. Thanks to that, the cameras onboard were able to get clear views of the landing region during the crucial moments before touchdown, thus helping the spacecraft avoid hazardous craters and land safely.

The craft did not raise lunar dust but what it did raise was India’s and the Indian Space Research Organisation’s stature in the global scientific community; India became the first country in the world to land a craft on the moon’s south polar region and only the fourth country in the world to soft-land a robotic instrument on the moon.

It was a stellar moment for India and for the entire scientific community across the globe. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the time: “India’s successful moon mission is not just India’s alone…this success belongs to all of humanity, and it will help moon missions by other countries in the future. We can all aspire for the moon and beyond.”

The historic accomplishment was yet another boost to India’s dreams of carving a niche for itself in the world of space exploration.

From humble beginnings, ISRO has evolved into a global space powerhouse, propelling India to the forefront of space technology and innovation.

In the recent past itself, ISRO has helped cement the nation’s position as a formidable player in the area of space exploration. If ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan), launched in 2013, made India the first Asian country to reach Mars orbit and the fourth space agency globally to do so, with the successful launch of Chandrayaan-2 in July 2019 India became the fourth country to land on the lunar surface. These landmark missions signify India’s prowess in deep space exploration and its commitment to pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery.

The numbers speak volumes about ISRO’s indelible imprint on space exploration: Over 100 spacecraft missions, including launching satellites for communication, navigation, Earth observation, and scientific research. Launching 104 satellites in a single mission in February 2017, ISO broke the earlier record of launching 37 satellites by a Russian Dnepr rocket on June 19, 2014. These are just a couple of achievements to underscore ISRO’s expertise in space logistics and launch technology, and its immense capabilities.

Densil Vincent
Densil Vincent

ISRO’s cost-effective approach to space missions has also garnered international acclaim, making it a preferred partner for collaborative ventures in space exploration.

The organisation’s space exploration programs perfectly align with a comprehensive government strategy aimed at harnessing the scientific, economic, and security advantages of space capabilities. The space programmes are in effect a catalyst for engaging young talent in high-technology sectors and fostering a technologically advanced society. The deployment of Indian communications satellites enhances connectivity in rural regions, while the navigation satellites assist mariners, and imagery satellites bolster disaster relief efforts.

Looking ahead, ISRO’s vision extends beyond the confines of Earth, with ambitious plans for lunar exploration, interplanetary missions, and human spaceflight. The upcoming Gaganyaan mission, where an Indian launch vehicle will place four Indian astronauts in low-earth orbit for a short duration before returning them to earth, represents a significant milestone in ISRO’s journey and a testament to India’s aspirations in space exploration.

Some of the near future goals of ISRO include establishing an indigenous space station by 2035 and landing an Indian on the moon by 2040.

The former Chairman of ISRO, Dr K Sivan, whose notable contributions include his pioneering work on cryogenic engines, and in the development of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III, often referred to as ISRO’s most powerful rocket, sums it up best with his visionary words encapsulating the essence of India’s space odyssey: “ISRO’s journey epitomizes India’s quest for excellence in science and technology, transcending geographical boundaries and inspiring generations.”

With its unwavering commitment to excellence, ISRO continues to inspire the world and pave the way for India’s giant leap in space exploration.

The writer is associated with Milabalyawmi

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