'Next, we want an Indian on the moon'

'Next, we want an Indian on the moon'

Students wave Indian national flags as the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Chandrayaan-2 (Moon Chariot 2), with on board the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-mark III-M1), has been launched in Sriharikota in the state of Andhra Pradesh on July 22, 2019. Photo credit: AFP

“We want an Indian on the moon next,” gushed a euphoric space buff, his eyes still hooked to the exhaust clouds left hanging by the Chandrayaan-2 that lifted off from Sriharikota on Monday afternoon.

Awestruck by the magnificent ‘Baahubali’ soaring moonwards with the Chandrayaan-2  mission, 10,000 avid space buffs erupted in collective euphoria. At the Viewers Gallery in Sriharikota, barely a few kms from the launchpad, the clock had just struck 2.43 pm.

Hearts beating in sync with the countdown amplified by a loudspeaker, the crowd had suddenly fallen silent. Ten seconds away from a record-making lift-off, amid mounting tension, they awaited the impending roar and soar with bated breath.

Ten, nine, eight, the countdown was clear and emphatic. Three, two, one and a microsecond later, the GSLV Mk III roared, lifting off, towering over the tree cover that had blocked a clear view of the launchpad.

Shutterbugs went berserk capturing Baahubali’s every push spacewards. As smartphone cameras and selfie addicts got busy, the diehard professionals listened in rapt attention. Stage by stage, the rocket launcher’s strap-ons and payload fairings got ignited and separated with clinical precision.

But the biggest roar that matched the first applause came exactly 974.30 seconds (about 16 minutes) after launch. The Chandrayaan-2 Composite Module had just freed itself from the Launch Vehicle, securely placed in a pre-defined earth orbit.

At the Satish Dhawan Space Centre’s Control Hub, every scientist was on an electric high, all smiles and shaking hands, as Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chairman K Sivan certified the launch’s emphatic success.

That mood seemed contagious at the Gallery. Waving the Indian tricolour with much pride, school children, young scientists, IT professionals and villagers from Chennai, Bengaluru, Nellore, Mumbai and Delhi had converged in massive numbers.

For Prashanth H, an entrepreneur from Bengaluru, the launch was a perfect setting to inspire his young son, Shaurya. “Nothing like watching a moon mission go up live. I am sure Shaurya, now in his first standard, will remember this exposure and get inspired,” he said.

Arshia Kanive, a Class 7 student from Bengaluru had travelled all the way to Sriharikota with dad Sandesh D R. “We had also come for last Monday’s launch that was aborted. In any launch, there is only a 50:50 chance. But this time, I would give it 70:30,” she said, barely 30 minutes before launch.

Blasting off to record India’s first-ever soft-landing on the lunar surface, Chandrayaan-2 proved her right, giving her enough confidence to someday realise her dream: An Indian on the moon!