On Monday evening, ``Beyond Moon and Mars,'' accompanied by secretary of India chapter of Moon Society, Pradeep Mohandas, visited the Nehru Planetarium at Worli with a different aim---neither to listen to a talk nor watch an astronomy show. The purpose was to discuss the unfortunate Christmas Day failure of the GSLV which has hit international headlines.
But why the Nehru Planetarium? The reason is outside this beautiful centre--a great landmark of Mumbai--there is a huge model of the GSLV donated by Isro. BMM, therefore, felt it would be best to ponder over the possible causes of the crash with the model of the rocket right in front of us.
BMM being not a techie, therefore. felt it would be good to have a person with an engineering background. Who else but Pradeep in this case? The guy who came all the way from Chedda Nagar where he stays, near Chembur, did his best to explain the causes of the disaster by pointing towards the model. And since it was a weekly holiday at the planetarium, we managed to access the spot close to the rocket thanks to my good friend Suhas Satam Naik of the planetarium. Thank you Suhas.
With the rocket close to us, we wondered who was conducting the initial probe of the mishap---Isro or the media? Minutes after the disaster, the electronic and print media as well as some of the internet sites have been flooded with speculative reports about the reasons behind the crash.
While Isro chief, K.Radhakrishnan, announced that the possible cause could be snapping of four chords between the rocket's equipment bay and the first stage, journalists have been tracking Isro scientists who have been coming out with their own theories. These scientists, moreoever, do not want to be named because of a gag order by Radhakrishnan. Satish told BMM that as of now the cause of chords snapping will be investigated.
One of the reports suggested a structural error because of the heavy weight of the satellite and today Pradeep's friend, an aerorspace engineer, pooh poohed the report. Whom are we to believe? Why cannot we wait for the actual official report to be released which will have credibility. Pradeep incidentally was inclined to believe that the structural error theory could be plausible.
Remember, Isro has a huge staff strength of nearly 14,000. In such a large organisation internal disputes and rivalries among the employees is something inevitable. So let the media not be used by one set of employees to settle scores with the others using the GSLV disaster.
This problem has arisen because even in the previous case relating to the GSLV failure on April 15,2010, Isro only released half the report through a press release. In this case, BMM feels that the full document should be hosted on Isro's website unedited. Even the damning comments and remarks should be made public as it happens with the case of Nasa and Arianespace.
About Chandrayaan-2 Isro seems confident that it will fly in GSLV Mark 2 with an indigenous cryogenic engine. BMM hopes that its optimism does not prove baseless at the end.
If it does not what are the choices--either delay the launch till the GSLV finally proves it is really reliable. Alternatively, explore the possibility of depending upon a foreign launcher.
But, let us wait for the official report. Let the media consisting of journalists, not scientifically qualified not play the role of investigators atleast in this case.
May the new year bring luck to Isro.