Late former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was instrumental in making India touch the lunar surface on its maiden mission to moon in November 2008, a senior space scientist said on Friday.
“When we made a presentation to President Kalam in 2004 on Chandrayaan-1 mission which was to orbit the moon at 100 km from its surface, he asked us why not land on it when your spacecraft is going that far all the way,” Indian space agency’s satellite director M. Annadurai said at a seminar held in Kalam’s memory here a day after his 84th birth anniversary.
The lunar project team, headed by Annadurai then, went back to the drawing board and included Kalam’s moon impact probe (MIP) in the mission, keeping in view the spacecraft’s weight and capacity, as it carried 11 scientific instruments onboard for various experiments while orbiting the moon.
“When we told Kalam that his wish has been fulfilled and the 34 kg MIP will land on the lunar surface, he was delighted and congratulated us for turning his wish into a reality,” Annadurai told about 300 scientists, engineers and students in presence of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and other dignitaries.
Though Kalam could not be present at the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, when the moon mission was launched on October 22, 2008, he was excited to be at its satellite telemetry, tracking and command network (Istrac) in Bengaluru on November 14 when his “brain child” MIP descended and hit the lunar surface 25 minutes after it was separated from the unmanned spacecraft (Chandrayaan-1) in the lunar orbit.
The landing made India fourth country to accomplish a planned impact of a probe, which had the three colours of the national flag painted on its square shaped box.
Annadorai said Kalam had then asked what him next and encouraged him take up tasks going beyond his brief.
Kalam, who was 11th president from 2002 to 2007, was with the space agency from 1969 to 1992 as a rocket specialist and piloted launch of early satellites.