Chandrayaan-3: The Odds and The Triumph #396

Chandrayaan-3 landing on South side of moon was not just the triumph of scientists at ISRO today but a tradition and history of science that looks at exploration as a spiritual path. It is a story of a battle against all odds and challenges!

Chandrayaan-3: The Odds and The Triumph #396
Photo by Mike Petrucci / Unsplash
“Somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory.”― John Steinbeck, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights

Last evening we went for the screening of "The Vaccine War" - a movie by Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri. An amazing film!

It was a story of how the Indian scientists, despite the odds, did something that will remain the most remarkable achievement in the history of human science effort.

We will share our detailed review in the next couple of days for it needs serious discussion.

The movie was outstanding in its screenplay, its music, and most importantly its story. The story was tough but the stitching together of facts and evidence was done extremely well.

"India Can Do It" - was the feeling that the audience was left with.

Today, we share a very similar story. The story of Chandrayaan-3.

It is a story of grit, death, espionage, betrayal vs courage and commitment. And above all brilliance.

The Indian Space story needs to be told as well. It is long and it is remarkable from what humans can achieve.

The Landing

On 23rd August history was created. Chandrayaan-3 mission was successful. The spacecraft that had been launched on July 14th from Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota and entered the lunar orbit on August 5 sent a lander named Vikram for a landing on the South pole of the moon.

The lander touched down at 12:32 UTC on August 23rd.

This was the first time that anyone from the planet Earth in our times had landed at that spot.

There were three main components of this mission. A Propulsion Module (2148 kg), a Lander Module (Vikram) (1726 kg) and a Rover (Pragyan) (26 kg).

The complete mass at the launch was 3900 kg. Or 4.2 tons.

God, Brahman and Chandrayaan

Before and after the successful launch of the Indian mission to the moon, the ISRO scientists visited temples for spiritual grounding. Acts that many in the so-called "Liberal" - though ideologically bigoted media and political circles - have agitated against.

Interestingly, ISRO Chief Dr Somnath's perspective is not that different from the original Indian mathematician and astronomer, Aryabhatt.

Source: Aryabhatta I. His Life and his ContributionsSociety by MR Ansari (Bulletin of the Astronomical Society of India, vol. 5, p.10) / Harvard University

Knowledge of astronomy, Aryabhatt asserted leads one beyond the planets to the absolute Brahman.

DRISHTIKONE SPEAK - Western Science and Indian Science: Western science as it started off during the Renaissance was a reaction to the Dark Ages when the Christian annihilation of the Greco-Roman civilization and its scientific achievements had started 900 years of remarkable decline foisted by religion on an entire continent. Western Science therefore was a defiance of religion. If something can be proved via observation and physical proof, then, went the argument, it was not a "work of God". The Indian Science, however, was not an anti-thesis to "god". For there was no "god" in the Indian traditions to fight against. Brahman was not "god" but the primordial universal consciousness underlying the entire existence. So, the Rishis, or ancient scientists believed that a better understanding of nature and existence would take a person one step closer to understanding and experiencing the Brahman. In simple words, while Western scientists asserted that if it could be proved that lightning in the clouds was a physical phenomenon, the existence of "god" could be disproved. The Indian scientists believed that if one could understand the phenomenon of lightning objectively, one could be one step closer to the understanding of Brahman itself.

One model posited science as an antithesis to god. The other posited science as a way to the universal consciousness.

If you use the Western lens to understand the approach of Indian Rishis and scientists, say from ISRO, you will be tripping over your own ideologically bigoted baggage. Neither the approach nor the understanding of "god" is the same.

'Naked Man with a Top Hat' - Imperialist Hate

On a voyage in 1893 from Japan to Chicago, Swami Vivekananda met Jamsetji Tata. One was bringing India's spiritual heritage to the United States and the other was to buy a steel plant for India. Swamiji challenged Jamsetji to create a culture in India so no one would have to buy such technology from the West.

Start an institute in fundamental science research, he pushed the great Tata.

A Voyage in 1893 that Changed India!!
See below an interesting letter that Jamshetji Tata – the pioneer of Indian Science and learning wrote to Swami Vivekananda recalling their voyage from Japan to Chicago on a ship in 1893! Here he is asking Swami Vivekananda to take leadership of the Research Institute of Science (later to become the

The result was the Indian Institute of Science.

But it wasn't so easy.

India was ruled by the British and they were appalled at the ambitions of Indians. Those whom they had milked dry while using the loot to enrich themselves were chiding the very people they had stolen from for being poor!

In 1901, Lord Curzon said this about the attempt to start the Indian Institute of Science. (Source: The Big Bang, Circa 1909 / Outlook)

"To start with polytechnics and so on is like presenting a naked man with a top-hat when what he wants is a pair of trousers." 

The reaction from modern Britain is no different.

But the Indians, specifically the Parsis fired by Jamsetji's vision, had other ideas. The battle was taken up by Burjorji Jamaspji Padshah. He was a Parsi educationist and scholar. Padshah wrote to Sir William Ramsay, who had won the Nobel in 1904 for the discovery of the inert gaseous elements in the air about why an institution for fundamental science research was critical for India.

"If we are beaten for the present we are not dismayed. We cannot give up the idea. We still hold that no sum can be more advantageously expended for the benefit of India than in attempting to bring into existence a scientific milieu in the country." 

Padshah and JN Tata's vision was given a boost by the Mysore state. By a grant of 375 acres of land.

(Source: The Big Bang, Circa 1909 / Outlook)

That was the start of the Indian Institute of Science.

IISc's first Indian director was Sir C.V. Raman, the Nobel physicist, in 1932.

In 1928, Sir CV Raman shared his new discovery with these prophetic words.

"I propose this evening to speak to you on a new kind of radiation or light emission from atoms and molecules." 

With this CV Raman shared the basics of the Raman effect and his experiments. He won the Nobel in 1930 for that.

Why is that important? Because what Raman shared is important for planetary explorations.

Our laboratory investigations indicate that Raman spectroscopy is applicable to addressing a wide range of lunar surface exploration goals related to geology, in situ resource identification, and condensed volatile detection in diverse geological terrains, including permanently shadowed regions. (Source: LunaR: Overview of a versatile Raman spectrometer for lunar exploration / Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences)

Also, read.

Later many remarkable scientists came who contributed a drop each to the massive effort that became the Indian space program. Meghnad Saha, Vikram Sarabhai - the father of the Indian Space program, Dr. Homi Bhabha. Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam - many many known and unknown luminaries.

These were the scientists who gave their all despite the challenges and odds stacked against them. Sometimes even with their lives!

There is evidence that Dr. Bhabha was assassinated by the CIA to stop India's progress in Nuclear and Space science.

But it was not just the West that was trying to stall India. So was India's initial leadership.


Cryogenic Engine: The missing piece

The story of India's space program including its moon missions is closely linked to one thing - a Cryogenic Engine.

It has been the key to India's Chandrayaan-2 and Chandrayaan-3 missions.

Source: Chandrayaan-3 and beyond: How India is pushing boundaries of rocket science / India Today

The story of India's cryogenic engine's acquisition and its twisted turns started inadvertently at the Paris-Le Bourget Airport in 1975 when Dr. Nambi Narayana and his colleague Dr. P Mohana Prasad were there for the Aerospace Exhibition.

Source: "Ready to Fire: How India and I Survived the ISRO Spy Case by Dr. Nambi Narayan

Sexual Obsession, Kerala's Politics, and CIA's Geopolitical Games: ISRO Espionage Case

During a visa check in October 1994, police arrested two Maldivian women - Mariam Rsheeda and Fauziyya Hassan. The police said that during a raid on Rasheeda's place, they found a diary written in Dhivehi language which showed that she was part of the National Security Service of Maldives. The police alleged that Rasheeda had met with D. Sasikumaran, the general manager at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Center.

Another angle was added by the police by stating that both Rasheeda and Fauziyya had been visiting the Pakistani embassy in Maldives.

The police arrested Sasikumaran and K Chandrasekhar (a representative of Russian State Space subsidiary Glavkosmos) in November. Apparently basis the statements from the two women from Maldives.

Overall, the people who were suspected included the two scientists in the Liquid Propulsion Systems Center (LPSC) and two businessmen.

The key scientists suspected of hawking these secrets to them were suspected to be S. Nambinarayanan, the then deputy director of ISRO's Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), and P. Sasikumaran, an LPSC deputy project director. Two Bangalore-based businessmen, K. Chandrasekaran and S.K. Sharma, were said to be partners in the crime. And Raman Srivastava, an inspector general of police in Kerala, was also named as an accomplice. (Source: ISRO spy scandal: IB, Kerala Police dispute CBI contention of bungling up the probe / India Today)

In the foreword to his father's book "Open Secrets: The Explosive Memoirs of an Indian Intelligence Officer" (Maloy Dhar), Mainik Dhar writes about the impact of the Indian Space Espionage case on ML Dhar's health and career alike.

The role of the Intelligence Bureau where Dhar was employed was suspect in how they worked with the Kerala Police and were pitted against the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI).

The modus operandi alleged was that Dr. Nambi Narayan and Sasikumaran would collect documents and L Chandrasekhar then would arrange the logistics and payments while transferring the documents to Alexi Vassive of Ural Aviation. Vassive would then forward the documents to Galvkosmos.

Vassive already had “close links” with Narayanan at the time, according to Sasikumaran’s statement to the IB, and had earlier negotiated with the latter for the transfer of drawings of the Viking rocket engine used by the ISRO. The documents, according to Chandrasekhar’s statement, had been sold to Brazil in 1989–90, for which both Vassive and Narayanan had received payments. Vassive was allegedly further exploring the possibility of selling Viking technology to Indonesia, Taiwan and North Korea. Others named as figuring in these business deals included Mohammed Pasha, a Pakistani scientist, and Zuheira, a Colombo-based woman. Pasha and Zuheira were suspected operatives of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, Dhar wrote in his book. Hassan told the IB that Zuheira introduced her to Mazhar Khan, who was working with the Pakistani high commission in Colombo, in January 1993. Khan had asked her to work for him and to “target and cultivate, suitable girls/women to be used for their work.” (Source: "State Secrets" by Nileena MS/Caravan)

After that four ISRO scientists - D. Sasikumaran, K. Chandrasekhar, Nambi Narayanan, and Sudhir Kumar Sharma - were arrested between November 21st and December 1st.

This was the time when the Congress party was having an internal battle of supremacy going on in Kerala. Chief Minister K Karunakaran and AK Anthony.

Anthony wanted to be the Chief Minister. But Karunakaran was very formidable. So the plan was to hit him big and hard.

Motives that are routinely churned out by political analysts include the sexual interest of police officer Vijayan; political manoeuvring by Congress dissidents led by current Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy who wanted to unseat the then Chief Minister K Karunakaran by dragging him into the case; the designs of the opposition Left, and so on. “It is no secret that Vijayan, then a sub-inspector of police, had a thing for Mariam Rasheeda and had got her arrested for overstaying in India by purposely confiscating her passport and disallowing her to leave before her visa expired,” says a senior Thiruvananthapuram-based police officer. “Oommen Chandy and others who wanted to anoint AK Antony Chief Minister launched a campaign saying Karunakaran was a spy and an anti-national. [Karunakaran] was deeply hurt, and I don’t think he ever recovered from the shock after people hurled abuses at him at a public function, calling him a ‘charan’ (spy),” says a senior Congress leader who was close to the politician.  (Source: Nambi Narayanan: Still Waiting for Justice / Open The Magazine)

The other thing that brought the Maldivian women into the whole case was the sexual interest of the Kerala police official Vijayan in Mariam Rasheed.

Source: 'Cops Tortured Me' / Outlook

In fact, Fauzia Hassan while talking to Malayalam Manorama's reporter in Maldives after her acquittal said that they were forced to name the ISRO scientists by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Kerala Police.

Fauzia Hassan says she didn’t know Nambi Narayanan until she was arrested in the sensational ISRO espionage case. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Kerala police had forced her to name the then ISRO scientist, she alleged. Hassan, who underwent a jail term along with Mariam Rasheeda in the ISRO spy case, talked exclusively to Manorama's reporter in Maldives. (Source: ISRO spy case confession was forced: Fauzia Hassan / Malayala Manorama)

This matched the version of Dr. Nambi Narayan shared in his book 'Ormakalude Bhramanapathadham' (In the Orbit of Memories). There he stated that Rasheeda had shared with him in a police vehicle that she had been forced to name him.

The interesting thing was that CBI had exonerated ISRO and called the case out for what it was - fake. Way back in 1996 itself. The CBI report was filed with the government on April 16, 1996.

Source: "Open Secrets: The Explosive Memoirs of an Indian Intelligence Officer"

Maloy Dhar found the CBI investigation "partisan" and dinged CBI and its "media campaign". IB's strange work (which was what Maloy Dhar a part of) may have been due to its internal politics.

Source: 'We would not have proceeded with the ISRO case if the high court had prevented us' / Rediff

Finally, on September 14th, 2018, the Supreme Court acquitted the ISRO scientists of the charges against them.

On 14 September, the Supreme Court of India announced its conclusion that the original case against Narayanan was concocted and awarded him 5 million rupees (roughly $70,000) in compensation. The entire prosecution initiated by the Kerala state police was malicious and caused tremendous harassment and immeasurable anguish to Narayanan, the court said. It also ordered the creation of a committee headed by a former Supreme Court judge to take action against the police officials whose actions led to the spying imbroglio. Narayanan and others accused in the episode were declared innocent by a local court in 1996, but a spate of litigation on the matter followed over the next 2 decades. Narayanan says his life was never the same. "The lives of all the accused got shattered and we all suffered silently," he says. (Source: Indian court offers final vindication for innocent space scientist who was arrested and tortured /

Supreme Court's ruling came but came very late. By then the job of those who wanted to do a "hit and run" where India's space program would have been hit badly - was done.

Not only were the intrigues of sex, politics and geopolitics (Vijayan's sexual obsession with Rasheeda, AK Anthony's political battle to oust Karunakaran, and the CIA's plot to stop India's cryogenic engine) instrumental in ruining the careers of two brilliant rocket scientists from India (Nambi Narayanan and D Sasi Kumar) but the Indian quest for the cryogenic engine was set back by several decades!

The help from Russia on the cryogenic engine was the other reason for CIA's special interest in India's cryogenic engine.

Source: India could have developed cryogenic engine by 2000: Scientist Nambi Narayanan / Economic Times

The problems from the lack of a cryogenic engine plagued India till as late as 2021.

The Failure Analysis Committee (FAC) of ISRO found that the GISAT-1 mission failed because of damage in the soft seal in a critical valve which resulted in lower pressure in the rocket's liquid hydrogen tank. The failure happened when the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) rocket's cryogenic engine was to kick in to take the rocket forward. (Source: Faulty Valve Led To Mission Failure, Says ISRO On GSLV Accident Last Year / Outlook)

Imagine the organization that put the rover on the moon messing up a valve! Shows what all can go wrong - or made to go wrong - with the smallest of things. Interventions against critical missions can happen at many levels.

The Triumph

The landing of the Chandrayaan-3 Vikram module was not just the work of those who directly worked on it but the triumph of those who have contributed to its components and knowledge ever since Indian Rishis looked at the planets above and wondered - How to know the Brahman.

It took another Rishi in Swami Vivekananda to reignite the fire in 1893. A fire that runs deep and high.

All the way to the Moon!

Video Corner: Wealthy and Sex Orgies

What does the world of the super-rich look like? Nothing that normal human beings would imagine.

In this video, a House Manager shares what working in a hotel for the super-rich is really like. From hiring out the whole hotel for a ‘themed’ orgy to covering the tracks of staff sleeping with customers, the Informer details how the job can be demanding physically and emotionally

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