The moving visuals from 2019 of Prime Minister Narendra Modi embracing and comforting K Sivan, the former chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), remains vivid in the minds of many.
Sivan had turned visibly upset after the space agency was found to have lost contact with the Chandrayaan-2 lander Vikram during its descent to the surface of the Moon.
Despite Modi's words of encouragement and consolation, Sivan could not hold back his tears.
"Emotionally I was a bit down at that time thinking that I disappointed the entire nation waiting for this moment to happen," Sivan told Republic recently.
But that was then.
Nearly four years after the Chandrayaan-2 setback brought him to tears, Sivan was filled with joy as Chandrayaan-3 successfully landed on the lunar surface on Friday, 23 August — or 23.23.23, in ISRO's creative rendition of the date on a deleted X post from Friday morning (26 August).
In an interview with news agency ANI, Sivan said he and others "were looking at the screen very anxiously" as the powered descent phase got underway.
"We pray(ed) in our mind that this time it should be a success...," he said. "Finally our prayers came true."
He said they all stayed put in the Bengaluru mission control room until long after the historic landing.
"Still I was sitting in the control room till the rover came out of the lander," he told ANI.
"After seeing that rover came out of the lander and moved over the Moon's surface, after that only I came to my house in the night, late night," he said.
The successful landing was "sweet news" for Sivan, who probably sought lunar redemption after the despair of 2019.
"For this, we have been waiting for the last four years. This success is sweet news for us and for the entire nation," he said.
In 2019, Sivan led the Indian space agency during the Chandrayaan-2 mission, which aimed to land in the south pole region of the Moon.
During the landing attempt, the lander deviated from its planned trajectory, lost contact with mission control, and crash-landed on the Moon's surface.
One poignant moment from that time was when Sivan, overcome with emotion, broke down while being comforted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Sivan became the chief of ISRO in January 2018 and served in that crucial role for four years, until January 2022.
A year and a half later, his dream of an Indian lunar landing in the south pole region was fulfilled.
Karan Kamble writes on science and technology. He occasionally wears the hat of a video anchor for Swarajya's online video programmes.
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