16,500 Women And Men Worked On Chandrayaan 2. Meet The ISRO Core Team

Chandrayaan 2: The charge to the south pole of the moon was led by humble and unassuming K Sivan, 62, whose journey to becoming ISRO chief is much like the nation reaching for the stars

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PM Modi watched the historic lunar landing attempt live from ISRO's mission control room in Bengaluru


Bengaluru: 

Chandrayaan 2 was expected to help India make space history at around 1.55 am this morning, when lunar lander Vikram was scheduled to soft land on the moon's surface, making the country only the fourth - after the United States, Russia and China - to achieve the feat. However, as the moment came and passed, the faces in ISRO's control room grew longer. ISRO chief K Sivan then confirmed what many suspected - that the agency had lost contact with Vikram.

Vikram may have failed to land on the moon, but the sheer magnitude and daring of the Chandrayaan 2 project, which lost contact only 2.1 kilometres short of its target, is testament to the brilliance and determination of the 16,500 men and women behind India's most complex and ambitious space mission yet.

Chandrayaan 2 and the charge to the south pole of the moon was led by humble and unassuming K Sivan, 62, whose journey to becoming ISRO chief is much like the nation reaching for the stars.

"I come from a very humble beginning... from a farming family. I worked in the fields so my father could save some money and studied at a Tamil medium school. It was a hand to mouth existence, but my father fed us three meals a day with full stomach," Mr Sivan, who joined ISRO in 1982, told NDTV.

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ISRO chief K Sivan joined the space agency in 1982

Chandrayaan 2 was expected to write space history and it still has - this was the first time in ISRO's history that a female scientist headed an inter-planetary project.

Project Director Muthaya Vanitha, who is responsible for the entire Chandrayaan project, has spent more than three decades at the agency, is an electronics and communications engineer.

Another woman scientist, Ritu Karidhal, was Mission Director for Chandrayaan 2, and also played a key role in navigating Mangalyaan to Mars.

Chandrayaan 2 began its journey on July 22 from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The Rs 1,000-crore mission, which cost only 1/20th of Hollywood blockbuster 'Avengers: Endgame', was scheduled to launch a week earlier but that was aborted less than an hour before lift-off after a technical glitch.

Behind the scenes, Dr S Somanath, a mechanical engineer, and Dr V Narayanan, the head of the Cryogenic Engine Facility, were instrumental in resolving that glitch - a problem with the cryogenic engine.

Mission Director J Jayaprakash and Vehicle Director Raghunatha Pillai, both rocket specialists, played key roles in averting further disaster on July 15, the day of the original scheduled launch.

When images of Chandrayaan 2 first emerged from ISRO's facility, the gleaming white and gold of the spacecraft captivated the country. P Kunhikrishnan, 58, a rocket engineer-turned-satellite fabricator, oversaw its construction as Director of the UR Rao Satellite Centre.

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Chandrayaan 2 consisted of three parts - a lunar orbiter, a lander (Vikram) and a rover (Pragyan)

ISRO may have lost contact with Vikram but the Chandrayaan mission is far from a write-off, with the lunar orbiter still functional and expected to transmit data over the next year. Communication with the orbiter is possible through India's deep space network and VV Srinivasan.

On the scientific front, Anil Bharadwaj, 52, is Director of the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad in Gujarat. He too was a key player in the Mangalyaan mission.

Many others spent countless hours working on the shop floor, poring over designs and peering at computers in their attempt to help India make history with Chandrayaan 2. Their contributions, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this morning, would not go unnoticed.

'You are the ones who live for the country. You are the ones who sacrifice your own dreams and spend sleepless nights to keep India's head high," the Prime Minister said during his interaction with the ISRO scientists at the space agency's headquarters in Bengaluru.



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