K Sivan tried to prevent my elevation to ISRO chairman's post: Somanath

S Somanath (left) chairman of ISRO and K Sivan, the former chief of the organisation. Photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) S Somanath revealed that K Sivan, the former chief of the organisation, tried to prevent him from becoming the chairman of the space agency.

The allegation was raised in his autobiography titled 'Nilavu Kudicha Simhangal (roughly translated as ‘Lions that guzzled the moonlight’). He also stated in the book that the Chandrayaan 2 mission failed as it was launched in a hurry without conducting the necessary tests.

ISRO chief S Somnath addressing the audience at the Manorama News Conclave 2023. Photo: EV Sreekumar/Manorama

Somanath says he and Sivan, who continued in service on extension after turning 60 (retirement age), were shortlisted for the post of chairman of the ISRO after A S Kiran Kumar retired from the post in 2018. Even though he hoped to bag the position, the lot fell on Sivan.

However, even after becoming the chairman of the ISRO, Sivan did not give up his post as director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC). When Somanath confronted Sivan with the demand for the post which was justifiably his, the latter played evasive without answering.

Sensors have been fixed to monitor the lander's landing speed and direction. Photo:ISRO/Manorama Online

Somanath was finally appointed as the VSSC director after six months following the intervention of Dr B N Suresh, the former director of the space centre.

Somanath also alleges that instead of retiring after three years of service as the ISRO chairman, Sivan tried to get his tenure extended. “I feel that the director of the UR Rao Space Centre was taken on board the Space Commission when it was time to select the new ISRO chairman, just not to make me the chairman,” observes Somanath but did not elaborate on this.

He says that he was also kept away from the group of people to receive Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he came on the day Chandrayaan 2 was to land on the moon. He further alleges that the chairman, instead of stating the truth that it was an error in the software that had caused the failure in the landing of Chandrayaan 2, declared that contact could not be established with the lander.

Sivan made several changes to the Chandrayaan 2 mission, which started when Kiran Kumar was the chairman. Excessive publicity also affected the Chandrayaan 2 mission adversely. His greatest satisfaction was that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had personally arrived to offer congratulations when Chandrayaan 3 succeeded in the mission, Somanath says in the book that has been brought out by Lipi Publications, Kozhikode.

Somanath says that the inquiry committee had found five main reasons for the failure of the Chandrayaan 2 mission. Software errors and faults in the electronics assembly of the engine had caused problems. Due to a wrong algorithm, the thrust of the engine was greater than expected. Reducing the yawing motion of the satellite and the command given to land at one particular place proved disastrous. Many of the essential tests were also not done. These findings, however, contributed to the success of the Chandrayaan 3 mission, writes Somanath.

No comments: Sivan
“I have not seen what the ISRO chairman Somanath has written about me in his autobiography. I have nothing to say on this matter,” ISRO's former chairman K Sivan said in response to a query.

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