he Rs 978-crore Chandrayaan-2 mission to the Moon, which was successfully launched onboard the GSLV-MkIII-M1 rocket from the spaceport in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, on Monday, has a Jharkhand connection.
Ranchi boy Gaurav Vaibhav, 23, who passed his 12th from Jawahar Vindya Mandir Shyamali in 2011, is a flight dynamics scientist for the mission, which is intended to help India become the fourth country to soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon after the former Soviet Union and the US in 1966 and China in 2014.
Gaurav has been working with the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro’s) satellite centre in Bangalore since 2015 after completing his BTech in aerospace engineering from the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology in Kerala.
“Chandrayaan-2 is very important to me as it is my first interplanetary mission experience,” Gaurav told The Telegraph on Monday. “I learnt a lot, and felt the heat of being part of this historic mission. Being a flight dynamics scientist, I am involved in designing and planning of events to make the lander achieve the required landing site on the Moon. This kind of work requires a lot of numerical computations and analysis.”
Chandrayaan-2, made up of an orbiter and a lander with a rover, is expected to throw more light on the Moon. The Chandrayaan-1 orbiter, Isro had earlier said, had “conclusively discovered traces of water” on the Moon. The first mission had also discovered water ice in the Moon’s north polar region.
Gaurav has been part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission for the last one-and-half years.
“Within this timeframe, I had carried out the lander trajectory analysis and successfully completed the allotted activities,” he said.
Asked if anyone else from Jharkhand is part of the mission, Gaurav said: “Since many centres of Isro are involved, there could be (other) people from Jharkhand or Ranchi also but I would not know.”
He said there were lows, of at times stumbling on a problem, and highs — of achieving the solution.
“It has been really a fabulous learning experience for me. There were many challenges. Being the maiden lunar landing mission of India, soft landing on the required site is critical. All the subsystems are expected to perform; even one small system failure may lead to crash-landing. Since this landing phase will be of roughly just 20 minutes, recovery of any failure within that time isn’t possible,” he said. “Working together with so many subsystems in an integrated manner strengthened me technically from every aspect.”
Asked why the mission’s July 15 launch was cancelled, Gaurav said: “Cryogenic filling in the launch vehicle is done just four hours before the launch because it is highly inflammable.
On July 14, the required pressure could not develop during cryogenic filling because of an unexpected gap in a valve. Hence the mission was postponed till the problem was rectified. Fortunately it was observed at the right time and a major catastrophe was averted.”
Gaurav’s father Sudhir Upadhyay, under secretary in the state home department, who lives in Harmu Housing Colony, said he was proud of his son for being a part of the historic mission.