Today, on former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s birthday, the memory of him on the television screen after the huge failure of the 1979 SLV-3. The memory stands out from very many others in the present context of Chandrayaan 2.
Almost a month ago, Indians were disheartened after Chandrayaan 2’s Vikram lander lost connection with the computers in ISRO’s base. Indians saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugging and consoling an emotional ISRO chief, K Sivan. He spoke with the scientists at ISRO and told them to not lose hope. He also said, "new dawn and brighter tomorrow very soon".
Previously, when the SLV-3 space mission failed under Dr Kalam’s guidance, the nation received a motivational and heartfelt speech on how to handle failures from former President Dr Kalam. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was then the project coordinator of SLV-3 mission in 1979 and Professor Satish Dhawan was the chairman of Isro.
In 2013, dr Kalam delved into the details of the failed space mission of 1979 and how he comforted his team.
He said, “The year was 1979. I was the project director. My mission was to put the satellite in the orbit. Thousands of people worked for nearly 10 years. I have reached Sriharikota and it is in the launch pad. The countdown was going on T minus 4 minutes, T minus 3 minutes, T minus 2 minutes, T minus 1 minute, T minus 40 seconds. And the computer put it on hold, don't launch it. I am the mission director, I have to make a decision,".
He recalled the time when the experts in the room first sensed a problem. He said, "The working is on. Behind me, there are six experts. They saw computer database and they see pictures coming in the screen and they say there is a problem in the control,".
Dr Kalam revealed that the first stage had no glitches, instead the second stage is when the problem became huge. He recalled, "I bypassed the computer and launched the system. There are four stages before the satellite is launched. The first stage went off well, and in the second stage, it got mad. It went into a spin. Instead of putting the satellite in orbit, it put it into the Bay of Bengal,".
"First time I faced failure and how to manage failure? The success I can manage, but how to manage failure?," Dr Abdul Kalam asked. He was the chief of the mission who overruled the computer’s warning.
Later at the press conference, Isro chief Satish Dhawan informed the nation of the failure and also took all the blame upon himself in front of everyone. Kalam then went on to quote Dhawan as saying "'Dear friends, we have failed today. I want to support my technologists, my scientists, my staff, so that next year they succeed'". "He took the whole blame on himself despite criticisms. He took all the blame and assured them that next year we would succeed because his team was a very good one," Kalam said.
To quote Dr Kalam, it was that day he learned an "important lesson" and the best management experience. He said, "I learned a very important lesson that day. When failure occurred, the leader of the organisation owned that failure. When success came, he gave it to his team. The best management lesson I have learned did not come to me from reading a book; it came from that experience,"
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