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India ascends to the Moon
The Chandrayaan 3 robotic mission to the south pole of the Moon makes history.
Like millions of others I was a keen spectator to India’s first soft landing on the southern polar region of the Moon on August 23, 2023. To witness India’s scientific achievement was a memorable event in my life.
The touchdown took place with a magnificent grandeur, and ISRO made history with the LVM3-M-Chandrayaan 3 mission. The Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO launched the Chandrayaan 3 mission on July 14, 2023. The name Chandrayaan is derived from Hindi/Sanskrit meaning journey to the Moon on a moon vehicle. India is the fourth country after Russia, the US, and China to soft land on the Moon, and the first country to soft land in the southern polar region.
The southern polar region of the Moon is important and will play a key role in our permanent return to the Moon. NASA has identified 13 potential landing sites near the lunar south pole for Artemis 3, the first Artemis missions to bring crew to the lunar surface.
The live broadcast of the Chandrayaan3 landing, witnessed by millions across the globe on You Tube and on India’s national television (Doordarshan), gave national pride and hope to the people of India.
Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi greeted all Indians and envisioned the “dawn of a new India.” ISRO chairman S. Somanath spoke of a “golden era“ for the Indian space program in anticipation of the moment when the Chandrayaan-3 Vikram Lander and Pragyan rover, made in India, would successfully reach the lunar surface. Here is Honorable PM Modi’s post on X (formerly known as Twitter).
The emergence of India as a space superpower would have important implications for our return to the Moon, our journey to Mars, and then our future adventures on the interplanetary and interstellar frontier. India’s Lunar Exploration program, the Chandrayyan program, Mars Orbiter Mission, the Mangalayan program, Gaganyaan crewed missions, and Aditya L1 mission to the Sun, look so promising and we hope for more and more real space odysseys to witness.
What we need today is the harmonious blending of the occidental and the oriental, the scientific and the religious, the spiritual and the rational, said Swami Vivekananda in Chicago at the Parliament of Religions. Keeping Swamiji’s vibrant words in mind, I attended the Terasem Space Day Colloquium in July 2021, via zoom. The Colloquium covered spaceflight, geopolitics, future scenarios, space philosophy and culture, and spiritual implications.
Namrata Goswami’s talk covered India’s long term potential in spaceflight. In their book “Scramble for the Skies” (2020) Goswami and Peter Garretson suggest that India could become a space superpower alongside the US and China.
“I first found the inclusion of India surprising,” wrote Giulio Prisco, the organizer of the Colloquium, in his book “Futurist Spaceflight Meditations” (2021). “But India’s population is younger and growing faster than China’s. India has a vibrant high tech industry and an ambitious space program. I’m very fond of India’s cultural and spiritual traditions, and therefore I think this is good.”
Following the historic soft landing of Chaandrayan 3, Prisco congratulated India for becoming a protagonist of our return to the Moon and our ascent to the stars. The author of “The 8-Fold Way of the Scientific Method” (2021), Vinod Wadhawaan, also expressed enthusiasm for India’s achievement. “East or West India is the best.”
Indian culture could bring a much needed spirituality to space. At the BRICS meeting in Johannesburg, South African President Cyril Ramphosa quoted Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore to congratulate India on Chandrayaan’s landing on moon:
“We are in a palace which has no end, but which we have reached. By exploring it and extending our relationship with it we are ever making it more and more our own.” - Rabindranath Tagore, “Thought Relics”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed the establishment of a BRICS space consortium.
The intentions of spirituality and science are same and one would lead to the other and finally to perfection. Tagore writes:
“Tomaro asim e pran mono loye joto dure ami dhai kothau mrityu kothau dukho kothau bicched nai” (In Your infinity there is no death, no sorrow no separation, the more I meditate upon You, the more I find joy and all) (audio).
The ISRO team offered prayers at the Tirupati Temple before the Chandrayaan launch on July 14 at Salish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. In India we believe that we need a spiritual motivation before doing anything great, and we seek for auspicious blessings from our parents and deities.
But one has also to remember that the Indian spiritual tradition and Hindu cosmology have a perfect unison with modern science, and Vedic philosophy has many times propounded that life comes from the moon and other planets.
The contribution of Indian women scientists to the success of Chandrayaan 3 Mission and the future space programs of India will play a pivotal role in spaceflight culture and bring much needed spirituality to space programs. Revered Swami Suviranandaji congratulated the team of dedicated scientists of ISRO on behalf of Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission and emphasized the global importance of the mission: “one earth one family one future … the success belongs to the whole of humanity.”
At this moment in history, space exploration is a very important task and we must push ourselves to expand beyond Earth and realize our cosmic destiny. We should also have a healthy space culture backed by spirituality and a philosophy that seeks Truth. The Indian space mission integrated with a billion Indian hopes is both a scientific marvel and a way of life with a grand vision of a future beyond all limitations after the success of Chaandryaan 3.