Vikram’s women win our hearts

Hurrah for women in STEM: A large bunch of women were involved in Chandrayaan-3’s history making moon landing

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I was among the seven million surfers watching the Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO’s live streaming of its Vikram lander gliding horizontally over the crater-ridden south pole of the moon.

The running commentary said it would turn vertical and land in three minutes.

It felt like a nail-biting three hours.

No tumble. No wobble. A silky smooth touchdown. The huge throng erupted in euphoria,  seeing their four-year-long slog turning into an epoch. No punching in the air, hugging or huddling, as seen in sports arenas. A dignified display of delight indeed. Humility is the hallmark of the scientific community.

ISRO chief Somanath, without rushing to claim all the credit, called on Prime Minister Modi to address. Watching from the Johannesburg BRICS summit and waving the tricolour, he said, “This success is not limited to one country but to the whole mankind.” India’s  ‘Vasudhaiva kutumbakam’  (world is one) philosophy was relayed to the world.

The first message Chandrayaan-3 sent out might well become as emphatic as the first line from the lunar floor in 1969.

After paying tribute to his entire team, ISRO chief Somanath called upon three key players of the Chandrayaan-3 mission to address the applauding crowd. One of them was Associate Project Director Kalpana. No bravado, no bragging. Modest as ever, she said, “This is the most memorable day in my life and all others here.”

The large cheering crowd was made up of many women scientists, looking like traditional middleclass mums in simple sarees and sindoor on their forehead, forging the nation’s march towards a monumental milestone. A win for the women of India.

Several senior women scientists have helmed critical sections at the ISRO in executing this successful mission.  Their impressive CVs speak volumes of their contribution. No glass ceiling for them. Sky is the limit, or even beyond. Mother India, just magnificent: Bharat’s bahens at their best.

A cart-load of congratulations came in from all over the world and all walks of life. Software supremos Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella complimented the soft landing.

Amazon’s Bezos and  Elon Musk of X who operate private space ventures eXpressed their joy.

Super wealthy Ambani’s Jio paid rich tribute: “Namaste moon. Glad to connect with you.”

The Dalai Lama lavished praise, saying “People of India have devoted to scientific development since ancient times.” Spirituality and science seamlessly synthesise in the land of sadhus and space conquerors.

Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian to be in space, and Sunita Williams, the Indo-American NASA astronaut who know the complex missions first hand were among the first to greet. Nambi Narayanan, formerly of ISRO, who was jailed on false charges of espionage but released later, hailed the real heroes of the day.

Reel heroes too were there to script their greetings with Shah Rukh Khan quoting lyrics from his 1977 film Yes Boss.

Ironically one downside to the movie world after this mission will be no lyrics writer will script a line comparing the heroine’s face to moon after seeing the craters. Thank god, immortal songs like “Chaudhaveen ki chand ho’’ and “Mere saamne wali khidki mein ik chand ka tukda ..” were penned long before we mortals came to see the real look of moon.

Women scientists of ISRO at the felicitation ceremony (Source: X)

Sadly the moon landing event was not without its sour grapes. South Indian actor Prakash Raj, the New York Times in that old cartoon, frustrated British politician Nigel Farrage, are all eating their words right now.

Congratulating the Chandrayaan-3 team, Dr. Sivan  who spearheaded the 2019 Chandrayaan 2, said the crowning glory could have come four years earlier but for a last minute malfunctioning of the braking system causing the crash. Who could forget the scene of him crying and Mr Modi consoling him. Dr. Sivan, don’t despair.  Another Siva, the Lord, had captured the moon eons ago and placed it on his crown. He has answered your prayers.

Read more: Chandrayaan-3: why aim for the moon’s South Pole?

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