The triumph of Chandrayaan-3 – India’s Moon mission – was the result of tens of thousands of hours of research and analysis by hundreds of scientists, engineers and technicians, who guided the nation to space history last month after the Vikram lander soft-landed near the lunar South Pole. Spearheading the Indian Space Research Organisation’s efforts was agency boss S Somanath, who spoke exclusively to NDTV on Saturday, on his personal and professional journey and the importance of India creating and establishing a “permanent habitat” on the Moon, Mars and exoplanets.
Among the points the ISRO Chairperson discussed were the many challenges he has faced over the course of his career, including (the now scarcely believable) comment “my position (in ISRO) was threatened… I could have been thrown out”.
“… don’t think everything was nice for me in my life… I also faced challenges in personal life and official life. You (referring to himself) can be thrown out of an organisation… your position can be threatened (and) you are sometimes not even treated with great respect,” Mr Somanath told NDTV.
Looking back on his career, India’s top space man recalled harsh words ahead of an earlier launch.
“Many years ago… in launch of PSLV Mark-III expedition there was every possibility of a failure but somebody had to take the decision (of launching) and I took it. I think I was threatened… that it would be a “colossal failure”,” he said.
‘But there was nobody else and I did it… and it was successful. Many things happen in life like that.”
READ | India Must Have Permanent Habitat On Moon And Mars: ISRO Chief To NDTV
The ISRO boss, with a smile on his face, said that though he had been criticised and his ability questioned, he had taught himself to rise above the “silly words… silly acts” of some people.
“‘…you are not a suitable person (for this role)’… I hear all this criticism but you have to raise yourself above these silly things. Once you reach that point (of self-confidence) you can look at people like this and smile. Their silly acts can be ignored.”
READ |“Work Of A Generation”: ISRO Chief On Chandrayaan-3’s Moon Landing
“How to do that? You go through a process… learn how to develop your self-confidence. And once you do that then you are not worried about these silly people and their words,” he told NDTV.
The man who made India’s wildest space dreams a reality is soft-spoken and erudite, and describes himself as an “explorer”. “I explore the Moon… the inner space. It is part of the journey of my life to explore science and spirituality,” he said at a temple after Chandrayaan-3 landed on the Moon.
That “journey” involves an understanding of one’s weaknesses and limitations.
READ | “I Explore Both Science And Spirituality”: ISRO Chief On Temple Visit
Mr Somanath said. “I had several limitations… both in terms of technical capabilities and my own personal capacity. You work on this over a period of time in your own way. For me, my mental and physical growth and subject knowledge growth was thanks to various people who came in my life at different times and gave me insight.”
On India Habitat On Moon, Mars
On India’s future space plans – which include the Aditya L1 solar and manned Gaganyaan mission – Mr Somanath said if humanity plans to travel beyond Earth, habitat creation is needed on the Moon and Mars, as well as exoplanets, and that Indians had to be there.
“We think of ourselves as so inferior today… that we are not technologically advanced, not financially powerful. And we always think we are poor, so we can’t invest in all of this. I believe that this has to go, for a nation which thinks that they are the one who are creators of knowledge,” he said.