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Former ISRO Scientist: ‘International conspiracy’ halted India’s leap into space

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Bengaluru: The indigenous cryogenic engine which was put on the pedestal last Friday for the third time by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) in a ground test proved its mettle. This huge step towards a geostationary satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) in December could prove to be the country’s first heavy-lift version in this field.

This was the third and final successful ground test of the indigenous cryogenic engine by ISRO.

The GSLV-Mark-III can carry a payload of four tons, about twice the capacity of ISRO’s existing rockets. The C-20 engine that was “hot tested” for 635 seconds at the Liquid Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu will be used to power the rocket’s upper stage.

But S Nambinarayanan, former Project director of ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems, says this milestone could have been crossed 12 years ago had his project not been derailed by an “international conspiracy” to halt India’s leap into space.

It was Nambinarayanan who introduced the liquid fuel rocket technology in India in the 1980s. The Vikas engine used today by all ISRO launch vehicles, including the one that took Chandrayaan-1 to the moon in 2008 and Mangalyaan, was the result of two decades of work by his team with assistance from France.

And, as project director of the newly-launched indigenous cryogenic engine project, he plunged headlong into developing the propulsion systems for ISRO’s GSLV and interplanetary missions. With this in mind, in 1991, he signed a contract on behalf of ISRO with the Russian space agency Glavkosmos for the technology transfer of a cryogenic propulsion system.

But things did not turn out as planned. Glavkosmos, in 1993, reneged under pressure from the United States. And Nambinarayanan was arrested on November 1994 on charges of selling India’s “rocket secrets to Pakistan through two Maldivian women ‘spies’ leading to his suspension from his job.” With Nambinarayanan out of the scene, the cryogenic engine development suffered.

“Cancellation of the contract and my arrest were part of an agenda of the US, accomplished by conniving with officials of our Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Kerala Police,” Nambinarayanan told this correspondent in an email. As an evidence of conspiracy, he refers to the dismissal of an IB officer of the rank of the joint director in 1996 for his alleged links with the CIA.

In fact, in 1996, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), which took up the “ISRO spy case” found it to be false and fabricated by the IB and the Kerala Police- a finding endorsed by the Supreme Court in April 1998 and by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in September 1999.

The NHRC also passed strictures against the Kerala government for having “tarnished (Nambinarayanan’s) long and distinguished career in space research apart from the physical and mental torture to which he and his family were subjected.”

Nambinarayanan says he managed to obtain the supplies and documents relating to the cryogenic engine from Russia’s Glavkosmos before it cancelled the contract and arranged a private airline (Ural Aviation) to transport the cargo to India in four shipments.

“With this, I hoped ISRO could master the cryogenic technology,” he said. But his suspension from ISRO’s cryogenics systems project put an end to that.

“Had there been no conspiracy, ISRO would have achieved space power status long back, maybe as early as 2000,” Nambinarayanan told reporters. “Today, we are not only delayed by more than 12 years but have also lost several billion dollars worth of launch business.”

The rocket scientist feels sad that while the CBI concluded that the ISRO “spy case” was false and fabricated, nobody bothered to unearth the motives behind it or punish those officers of the IB and the Kerala Police who were charged with negligence and dereliction of duty by CBI.

“The government should constitute a special investigation team to find out the total truth in the ISRO spy case,” he said.

While ISRO is celebrating last week’s successful “hot test” of its new cryogenic engine, Nambinarayanan, 75, who started this work two decades ago, is now spending much of his time fighting court cases, to get Rs 1 crore (Over $145,000) in damages he had claimed from the state and central governments.

He is also seeking action against police officers who framed him and others in a false case that harmed India’s space program. (K.S. Jayaraman, IANS)

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  • Ravi

    What a loss for the nation ! Some people would sell their mother for money. Look at the gravity of the crime committed against Shri Nambinarayan! Those responsible should be punished and their ill gotten wealth to be confiscated.

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Modern Science and India’s Universal Wisdom

What if an Indian research scholar would have become adamant by saying that “Pi” was first computed by Madhava instead of Leibniz?

Old Indian Wisdom and Modern sciences.

Salil Gewali, Shillong

  • India is a land of knowledge and culture
  • Many scientific principles of today were already discovered in ancient India
  • The modern sciences stem from the old Indian wisdom
Of course, for various reasons I was also brought up with less respect for the country. If one asks why, then it requires me to write pages after pages. The reasons are mostly absurd and unpleasantly paradoxical. This strange characteristic of India we hardly find in any other countries.

In brief, my mind had gathered a good amount of misinformation about the country which I realized not very late. Thank God, that all didn’t get tenaciously ossified which would have been very difficult later if I had to cleanse myself of or unlearn whole over again what I could have learned from various biased sources. Please kindly note, those biased sources are still held as credible. And, if ever any sane voice is raised against the biased academia then it is criticized as a vile attempt to distort the established history or as a show of insane chauvinism. You will be totally disgraced.  Therefore, many prefer to keep quiet.

Erwin Schrodinger was a great scientist.
Till a decade ago the computation of “Pi” was ascribed to a renowned German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz which was in fact wrong. What if an Indian research scholar would have become adamant by saying that “Pi” was first computed by Madhava instead of Leibniz? It would be like stirring up a hornet’s nest in India, if not in the West.  Then Dr. Srinvastava, Prof. Mehta and others would have lampooned the researcher, the next day the uproar of condemnation would have come from the media – so much so that he might have run the risk of losing all your academic carrier and position.

Incidentally, there in the west emerged a number of scholars like Marcus du Sautoy, the former President of the Mathematical Association, and others, who battled hard to establish that “Pi” was first mathematically calculated by Madhava of India in the 14th century, almost about three century earlier then by the German mathematician Leibniz. Very recently only the fact has been officially established and now known to be “Madhava–Leibniz series”. This bold step cannot be taken by any Indians within the country. Because other Indian scholars would be foaming at the mouth. Discrediting the West is quite like a blasphemy. Here people can proudly discredit their own country for which they usually find good support.  That is why they disrespect their languages, they often take delight in disrespecting their heritage, and they can snobbishly distrust their native values. I’m afraid, here in India, distrusting the nation’s glories requires no logic and trusting the foreign requires no validity!

Also Read: Science writing: A neglected form of literature that needs focus

Therefore, I must salute a few of the world-renowned westerners who awakened me. Those dispassionate scholars who flashed their spotlight towards India for “knowledge”. That flashlight was to dispel what I call it as my delusion. It was in fact destined to change my perspective to look at the country. One of the foremost among them to change my mind was an opinion/quote by Robert Julius Oppenheimer (father of atomic bomb) which I had come upon in a world-acclaimed book “The Tao of Physics” by a renowned American physicist Fritjof Capra.  This atomic scientist, who learnt Sanskrit around 1933 to go deeper into the ancient text of India, proclaims, — “What we find in Modern Physics is an exemplification, an encouragement and a refinement of old Indian wisdom”. Though it appeared quite ridiculous to me but I could not dismiss it. Rather, this bold opinion triggered my inner intellect. Of course, for a couple of months I remained skeptical of the views expressed by Oppenheimer, I persistently “reasoned” that a scientist does not utter a single word unless he/she evaluates the fact with the mathematical algorithms. In the meanwhile, I had overheard the roar of the father of Quantum Mechanic – Erwin Schrodinger, best known for his “Schrodinger Equation” — only one equation in the vast studies of Quantum Mechanic. That “roar” was in consonant with what my inner intuition vaguely held after reading the ancient text.  Of course, it did not take me very long to figure out what so marveled Schrodinger, and also other modern physicists like David Bohm and the Nobel laureate Brain David Josephson about India’s literature of wisdom.

The very fundamental essence of the Vedanta that — “apparent multiplicity is an illusion and everything in the universe is from ONE WHOLE” was thoughtfully paraphrased by Schrodinger. The grand notion of the East that‘MAKER AND THE MADE’ touched the heart of inquisitive Schrodinger.  Indeed, after the in-depth research, observation and experimentation of probably not less than a decade, Schrodinger remarked: “The UNITY and CONTINUITY of Vedanta are reflected in the unity and continuity of ‘wave mechanics’. The incredible doctrine that “All in ONE” of Upanishads perfectly dovetailed with the new experimentation of the matter or “particle” and its subtle “wave function”.

That’s why we have infinite species of flowers amazingly blooming in uncanny colors and fragrances at the same time in multiple Earth-like planets; we see endless verities of trees bearing fruits with amazing flavors and tastes; all celestial stars are rotating and revolving with perfect precision. Even one CELL/ATOM of an object is subtly as complex as a factory. Just imagine how many cells in the trillions and trillion of objects in the cosmic ocean? What is most intriguing is that everything is in perfect order, perfect harmony and at peace. Therefore, how could that be possible to “separate” the Divine from His boundless creations which are inherently divine themselves! So, the Vedantic proclamation that “Creator and Creation are ONE” makes much more sense to Schrodinger and his likes.

Sensing the grand meaning Schrodinger exclaimed in his masterpiece “What is life” : “The earliest records, to my knowledge, date back some 2500 years or more… the recognition ATMAN = BRAHMAN (the personal “self” equals the omnipresent, all-comprehending eternal SELF) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the “HAPPENINGS” of the world. The striving of all the scholars of Vedanta was after having learnt to pronounce with their lips, really assimilate in their minds this grandest of all thoughts.”

Schopenhauer was a great influence on Einstein.

It’s worthwhile to mention here that “The Unity and unified theory of Upanishads” was introduced to this great modern scientist by the front-ranking thinker of Germany – Arthur Schopenhauer.  Albert Einstein always held Schopenhauer as one of his masters whose portrait he had decorated his study room with.

Finally, I salute a very brilliant American historian Will Durant who, after serious studies of the history and philosophy of the East and the West, concluded: “India was the motherland of our “race”, and Sanskrit the mother of European languages. She was the Mother of our philosophy, of our mathematics, of the ideals embodied in Christianity, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the Mother of us all.”  Will Durant authored a world-acclaimed series ‘Story of Civilization’ in 11 volumes. But what is so weird is that this Mother Indian has given birth to some of the children who consider themselves totally orphaned unless they follow and adopt the West and find fault with the East!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali.