As the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party engaged in a credit war over the advancements in India’s space technology during their respective tenures, following Chandrayaan-3’s successful soft-landing on the Moon’s south pole, Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on Friday said the due credit must be given to whoever established the Indian Space Research Organisation. He, however, said it was BJP veteran and late former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who thought of Chandrayaan.
“The credit must be given to whoever established the ISRO. I thank them. It has benefited the country. But Chandrayaan was former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s thought… In 1999, the lunar mission was given approval from the government when Vajpayee was the prime minister. The late prime minister had urged scientists to proceed with their plan to study the Moon. Moreover, he also changed the mission’s name from ‘Somayaan’ to ‘Chandrayaan’. Shouldn’t Vajpayee ji get the due credit?” Meghwal told reporters.
On Thursday, the Congress said that it was India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru who laid the foundation stone of space science in the country. The grand old party in its tweet mentioned that Nehru’s scientific outlook and vision laid the foundation of Indian space research and Chandrayaan 3’s success is because of his early efforts.
The BJP, however, gave the credit for the Chandrayaan-3 mission success to ISRO scientists.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee renamed ‘Somayaan’
The Vajpayee’s decision to rename Somayaan had come as a surprise to space scientists as they had picked ‘Somayaan’ from a Sanskrit verse which was quoted in Rigveda: “O Moon! We should be able to know you through our intellect. You enlighten us through the right path”.
“Vajpayee said the mission should be called Chandrayaan, and not Somayaan, as the country has emerged as an economic power, and will make many exploratory journeys to the Moon,” Dr K Kasturirangan, the former chairperson of the ISRO, had told Deccan Chronicle in 2019.
Kasturirangan had also told the daily, “It took four years to plan the mission, and another four years to implement it.”
In November 2003, the government had approved the ISRO’s proposal for inaugural India’s Moon mission. During India’s 56th Independence Day in 2003, Vajpayee had said, “Our country is now ready to fly high in the field of science. I am pleased to announce that India will send her spacecraft to the moon by 2008. It is being named Chandrayaan.”
Chandrayaan, which means “moon craft” in Sanskrit, has been built on a budget of just under ₹615 crore. The approved cost of Chandrayaan-3 is ₹250 crores (excluding launch vehicle cost).