Prime Minister Narendra Modi met ISRO chief K Sivan on Saturday morning, hours after the space agency announced it had lost contact with the Chandrayaan 2 lunar lander Vikram during a historic attempt to soft land on the moon’s surface. The Prime Minister, who had watched the entire sequence of events live from the control room in Bengaluru, reacted with compassion to console an emotional ISRO chief.
In a nearly minute-long video that has also been shared by news agency ANI, PM Modi can be seen shaking hands with the ISRO chief as he leaves the building that houses the space agency’s control room. As he walks to his car, he shares a few words with Mr Sivan, who then appears to break down. The Prime Minister then leans forward, pats him on the back and pulls him forward for an embrace.
PM Modi, who also said “India did not sleep through the night”, has been widely praised on social media, with many holding the moment as an example of humility and outstanding leadership.
ISRO’s Kannada account described it as “A lesson in inspirational leadership”.
PM Modi was praised by Daniel Carmon, the former Israeli ambassador to India and Sri Lanka.
Bengaluru Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao said PM Modi’s hug demonstrated “calmness in leadership”.
One Twitter user described the Prime Minister’s reaction as “human”.
Another said both ISRO chief K Sivan and Prime Minister Modi had “won millions hearts”.
The Prime Minister was also praised for his display of solidarity with ISRO and the scientists behind the Rs. 1,000-crore Chandrayaan 2 project, which remains a success despite loss of contact with Vikram.
Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Kiren Rijiju also praised the Prime Minister, with the latter referring to the hug as “the moment when a nation stands tall”.
Ravi Shankar Prasad called the Prime Minister a leader “who inspires faith, hope and optimism”.
Lunar lander Vikram was scheduled to soft land near the south pole of the moon at around 1.55 am, after a 3.84 lakh km journey that began at the Sriharikota base in Andhra Pradesh on July 22. India had hoped to create history by becoming only the fourth nation – after the United States, Russia and China – to successfully soft land on the moon’s surface.
However, as the expected landing time came and went, there were no signs the mission had succeeded. Shortly after, ISRO confirmed that contact with Vikram had been lost.
Prime Minister Modi reacted with praise and encouragement, telling ISRO’s scientists “the nation is proud of you”.
“There are ups and downs in life. This is not a small achievement. The nation is proud of you. You all have done a big service to nation, science and mankind. I am with you all the way, move forward bravely,” he said, after being briefed about the loss of contact with Vikram.
ISRO scientists have also been comforted and praised by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who told the men and women behind Chandraayan 2 that their “passion and dedication is an inspiration to every Indian”.
Industrialist Anand Mahindra was another person not ready to give up on India’s ambitious mission. After ISRO lost touch with the Moon lander, he tweeted, “The communication isn’t lost. Every single person in India can feel the heartbeat of #chandrayaan2. We can hear it whisper to us that ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”