ISRO Chief Withdraws Book on Chandrayaan-2 Lapses, Cites Lack of Government Approval
The book authored by S Somnath, titled “Lions That Drank the Moonlight,” has stirred controversy as it allegedly contains critical remarks about former ISRO Chief K Sivan and addresses the setbacks faced during the Chandrayaan-2 mission. The title, loosely translated, hints at a narrative that may delve into the challenges and intricacies of the lunar mission.
The reported critiques of K Sivan and the mission’s failure have added a layer of complexity to the situation, raising questions about transparency and accountability within the Indian Space Research Organisation. The withdrawal of the book by the current ISRO head suggests a nuanced interplay between freedom of expression and official protocols, prompting discussions on the delicate balance between sharing insights and adhering to organisational norms.
The withdrawal of the book by the current ISRO
On Saturday, November 4, S. Somanath, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), made a significant announcement regarding his Malayalam memoir, titled “Nilavu Kudicha Simhangal,” loosely translated as ‘The Lions That Drank the Moonlight.’
In a surprising move, Somanath declared the withdrawal of the publication. This decision has sparked curiosity and speculation, particularly given the timing and the nature of the memoir, which is believed to delve into the intricacies of his experiences.
S. Somanath Clarifies: Withdrawal of Book Not at Government’s Behest
The title itself suggests a metaphorical exploration, possibly delving into challenges faced by ISRO, including those related to the Chandrayaan-2 mission. The decision to withdraw the memoir raises questions about the dynamics within ISRO and the delicate balance between personal narratives and organisational considerations.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission faced a setback on its originally scheduled date of July 15, 2019, when a technical snag prompted a last-minute postponement. Despite the eventual launch on July 22, the mission encountered a major hurdle as the Vikram lander deviated from its planned trajectory and crashed on the moon’s surface. Although the communication failure was initially attributed to the incident, it was later revealed that a software glitch was the root cause.
On the day of the crash, September 6, 2019, there was widespread awareness of the event, challenging the description of the outcome as a mere communication failure by Chairman Sivan. Mr. Somanath acknowledged the transparency dilemma and emphasized the importance of openly communicating both successes and failures. While he refrained from criticizing Dr. Sivan, he highlighted the need for transparent reporting.
Continuing to collaborate closely with Dr. Sivan, who remained an adviser to ISRO, Mr. Somanath revealed that valuable insights from the Chandrayaan-2 failure guided the technical upgrades incorporated into the Chandrayaan-3 mission. Launched on July 14, 2023, the mission reached a successful milestone on August 23, 2023, as the Vikram lander touched down on the moon’s south pole, releasing a rover to explore a designated area of the lunar surface.