To the Moon
With the launch of Chandrayaan-2 in the early hours of July 15, India is looking forward to being part of the elite group of three countries that have accomplished a soft landing on the moon. Chandtayaan-2's lander Vikram will touch down on the lunar surface near the South Pole on September 6-7, 2019, bringing India at par with the US, Russia, and China. A soft landing is a considerate move that ensures the object is able to carry out further experimentation on the target planet or satellite, mostly with the help of a rover. The object is not destroyed upon the impact of landing, unlike in a hard landing. It is worth mentioning that this will not be the first time that any object launched by India will leave its imprint on the surface of the Earth's only natural satellite. The country achieved hard landing on the lunar surface 11 years ago with Chandrayaan-1. As remarkable as this mission is going to be, in keeping with the tradition, ISRO Chairman K. Sivan on Saturday prayed at Tirumala temple for the success of the second moon mission. Sivan sought Lord Balaji's blessings like his predecessors who used to worship at the hill shrine before every major space mission. Accompanied by some ISRO scientists, Sivan visited the temple along with a replica of Chandrayaan-2 to receive the "benign blessings of Almighty". Additionally, he offered prayers at Sri Chengalamma temple in Sullurupet, near rocket port Sriharikota in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh. The preparations for this have been going on smoothly and the aim of this mission is to bring forth information and revelations in the field of lunar science, besides demonstrating new technology for soft-landing. The challenges in the path of accomplishing this feat are several: nearly 3.844 lakh km distance between the earth and the moon have to be covered ensuring trajectory accuracy. Then comes the deep space communication link between the ISRO and the Chandrayaan-2; due to the distance, limited onboard power, radio signals will be weak with heavy background noise. The signals have to be picked up by large antennas. Chandrayaan-2 has to change the route from the earth orbit to moon orbit by firing onboard motors so that it is raised to reach the vicinity of the moon's orbit. Since the moon's location changes continually owing to orbital motion, the intersection of Chandrayaan-2 and the moon's path will have to be predicted in advance and accurately. While this accomplishment is certainly one to be proud of, let us reflect on a critical thought that scientific feats can only be truly remarkable when a scientific temper is encouraged at large among citizens. The means to facilitate this democratic value is quality education and access to opportunities to maximum people. A sturdy social fabric is imperative for any grand accomplishment to be more meaningful. Efforts and resources that are invested to realise these aims ought to have an impact trickling down to the most common citizen. Quite literally, many are in the gutter but they are looking at the stars.