Sunday, September 8, 2019

Media Space Oddities

Space Oddity” is a song by the late David Bowie released on July 11, 1969. A few days later, the Apollo 11 astronauts would land on the moon. Bowie released the song three times from 1969 to 1975 and each time it was a chart-hit. The song was supposedly meant to be a taunt to the British establishment on not coming up with a manned-mission to space with the fictional astronaut “Major Tom” getting stuck in his “Tin Can” (Spacecraft) watching the earth and losing contact with ground-control. There is no human being on earth who hasn’t marveled at the moon and stars in the sky and wondered what’s going on as a child. The intense quest of mankind to seek answers to mysteries of the universe drives space-science, like many other domains in science. In dealing with what is still somewhat unknown, there can be many risks, hiccups and setbacks and also a good deal of success.

The US has had many setbacks to its space program. Way back in 1960 when NASA launched the MR-1 Spacecraft it behaved in a most peculiar way. At liftoff, the rocket lifted 4 inches and then pulled back and flopped on the launchpad. And then suddenly, the MR’s escape rocket jettisoned from the spacecraft, rose about 4000 feet and fell 400 yards away. Perplexed NASA engineers called it the “Four-inch flight”. Years later, the US would have the tragic experience of the Challenger Shuttle in 1986 exploding just 70 seconds after take-off. The world watched it in horror on Live TV. Again in 2003, the Columbia Shuttle exploded on re-entry. This shuttle included India’s Kalpana Chawla. Space exploration, adventure and discoveries are fraught with risks and it takes courageous astronauts who take those risks for the whole mankind. Similarly, our scientists at ISRO undertake missions and the associated risks for the whole country and for mankind.

The abrupt loss of contact with the latest space mission Chandrayaan-2 and the Vikram Lander (VL) renders part of a mission incomplete. It is not a failure by any measure. The Moon-Orbiter, part of the mission, is still in place. Of course, the VL not accomplishing the final landing disappoints all Indians (except the usual hatemongers among Sickulars). Through the disappointment ISRO Chief K. Sivan, his entire team along with PM Narendra Modi showed extraordinary poise, calm and strength of character. Something that the whole of India should be proud of. What we cannot be proud of is the manner in which some sections of our news-media handle such space missions and related issues. To use the word “stupid” wouldn’t be enough to describe them.

At 72, modern-day India is now a mature country. We shouldn’t be getting excessively jingoistic about our space or military adventures. And we shouldn’t be getting virally jubilant in our successes or extremely distressed in our unsuccessful ventures. A super-power takes both in its stride. We understand the men and women who toil hard and often pay a heavy price for the missions they undertake for the country. Mature moderation should be the approach in all such missions. However, the stupid Jingos of the media never seem to learn. The main criminals in excessive Jingoism are Republic TV and Timesnow. The moronic jumping up and down like clowns claiming “India will be the first”, “India first on the dark side of the moon”, “India creates history” – all of these more than 36 hours before the final descent of the VL:
And the worst part is that most of this stupid Jingo-dancing comes from the most uneducated journos when it comes to any kind of “science”. Creating excessive hype over an event doubles the disappointment when it doesn’t go according to plan. I can forgive a fair amount of excitement over the VL event but idiots from Republic, Timesnow and other channels were going around hunting for people, especially school-kids, for soundbites on it. For all its worth, half the population of this country wouldn’t have heard of VL till the final moments when it lost contact with ground-control and thus unsuccessful. And then these stupid channels get their worst journos to report on the event, ask for soundbites from the ISRO Chief. The kind of questions they ask simply insults the intelligence of even a poorly educated man where science is concerned. Here’s one such Jingo-girl from Republic:
I wonder what last minute precautions Prasanna was expecting ISRO to undertake. Is this some wedding where if the groom doesn’t turn up you quickly find a replacement? I don’t wish to single her out because I am sure there are many like her that I may not have had the chance to watch accidentally that have asked such stupid questions. The VL is an unmanned mission and if you think Prasanna is silly, then you haven’t seen anything yet. This guy, Pallava Bagla (Of NDTV – from where else?) takes stupidity beyond limits in his chat with Dr. K Sivan (Video: 25 secs):

Bagla wants to know how many astronauts are flying in the Chandrayaan mission. This moron is the “Science reporter” at NDTV. To go to chat with a highly ranked specialist with the ignorance that “Unmanned” missions mean no human is involved would take extraordinary depths of dumbness. Journos are not very bright people but this beats even the dumbest of the lot. After the event, when VL lost contact, ISRO called off the schedule press conference because of the situation. However, one Dr. Karnik made an impromptu announcement for the press in general. Once again, this jerk Bagla behaved badly and was screaming at Karnik on why the ISRO Chief is not addressing the press. Such uncouth morons shouldn’t be at events in the first place because they are disconnected from situations and realities. Bagla later apologised to Karnik in a couple of tweets, so we can probably let the incident pass. However, there are bigger morons from across the seas who want to defend his boorish behaviour. The exceptional moron that Sadanand Dhume is, he claims it’s the right of journos to ask such questions:
Journos, and part-time crap-peddlers like Dhume, should learn that they cannot choose who should address them. Dr. Karnik is quite a senior officer in ISRO. Journos are also entitled to ask questions but are not entitled to indecent behaviour. Journos should also never forget that while they are entitled to ask questions, the person they are asking the question to has all the right to refuse an answer or say “No comment”. Nobody is obligated to answer questions by journos. Their right is limited to asking, they have no right to enforce answers. Even cops in criminal cases have no right to enforce answers from a suspect.

Space missions can bring great successes and can also bring great tragedies like the Challenger or Columbia. India hasn’t faced any such tragedy and is progressing steadily and cautiously. Scientists devote a whole life to great missions like Chandrayaan, journos devote a few minutes for their stupid instant orgasm for a few soundbites or for bad news. In the entire post-VL situation, Dr. K Sivan, his entire team and PM Modi showed extraordinary “Calm under fire”. This is a talent; it cannot be transferred. I explained how this talent saves lives in the post “Miracle at Gandhi Maidan” and how “Character” doesn’t develop in a crisis but merely reveals itself. Journos neither have this talent nor the character in dealing with science and scientists.

In the famous Apollo-13 incident, three astronauts had to abort their mission because of an explosion in an oxygen tank. Their lives were in danger. It was up to Flight Director Gene Kranz to guide them and bring them back home safely. Kranz was also the Flight Director for Apollo-11 which landed the first humans on the moon. The entire NASA team managed the safe return of the astronauts. On his return, the Commander of the aborted Apollo-13 mission, Jim Lovell, was asked about the mission and he remarked: “It was a successful failure”:
VL and Chandrayaan too fall in that category. They are not failures by any measure but just left a mission incomplete to be undertaken again and completed in the future. There are no failures in scientific adventures and quests. Scientists cannot and should not be ridiculed for adverse outcomes. If scientists quit, there would have been no Polio vaccine. After all, Thomas Edison had to try hundreds of times to make the electric bulb and was still unsuccessful. When he did finally manage it, he famously said - "I have not failed 1,000 times, I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb." And this, when Edison’s invention of the light-bulb itself is disputed. Never mind that.

We may not break out in a dance on our space successes but we definitely should stand with our scientists when they confront adverse situations. Those who ridicule or mock them are simply the scum of the earth who survive on the work of the very scientist-community on which their miserable lives exist. One hopes the media space oddities show greater maturity and respect the next time around. 

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  1. Journos neither have this talent nor the character in dealing with science and scientists.

    How come these people are allowed to enter such prestigious institutes and ISRO chairman should carefully pick even the journalists for his interviews.

    His time is precious . Excellent article hitting the nail on the dumb journos head

  2. The root cause for air-headed and spaced-out journalism is that journalists have no culture, rootedness and serious intellectual ability.

  3. These jokers think these premier scientific institutes are like any other govt organisations and scientists are like ministers ! They mock economic issues,health issues,agril,etc !So they treat ISRO,DRDO and the devoted scientists in the same manner! You have exposed their illiteracy perfectly!

  4. Our Scientist community has done us proud. We are a super space power.

  5. I find rare persons like Surajit Dasgupta He has been a Science reporter and a person of remarkable intelligence, knowledge and has all right journalistic etiquette on his side. Incidentally Suraji once supported Anna Hazare movement and even tried to promote Aam Aadmi Party but got out just before Delhi election - wrote a blog - khaas aadmi party on similar lines how Raviji put facts.

  6. In India & across the world the journalists are those who score less than 40 marks & become intellectuals by becoming journalists. Ignore them follow the ISRO scientists, who bring us hope & make us proud with their achievements. ISRO has remarkably done well in Chandrayan-2 project.

    1. These journalists cannot be ignored as they have the voice. All this bullshit has to be replied. After the shit pallava delivered, prannoy Roy apology further enraged me. They are mentally unstable , bilut unfortunately they have the voice

    2. Agree they have voice of donkeys & owls.

    3. Dear GW,
      It is important in life, which voice you are hearing & following. Sound of OM or journalist voice. If you want to purify yourself, just change the channel & listen to more truthful journalists, if there are none, stop listening news, that is the only way to bring down the media by reducing their TRPs

  7. Ravinar,
    What a beautiful way of saying. Great. These days your writing and message are to the point and electrifying. Keep it up, Sir.

  8. Sir @xeni has exposed the NYT and #ClintonCrimeFamily participation in Eipstein #LolitaExpress and #OrgyIsland #PedophileIsland. Your NPV Gadhanand Dhule suspiciously similar face to ROMAN Magsaysay Rubbish Kumar (who was actually a mail sorter before on Sonia orders he was elevated as a 2 bit may actually be a PNV (Participative Non Virgin)

  9. The print & media journalists are just 10+ pass candidates with below average brains. They cannot control a country nor influence nor play Godman or God father to political parties during elections.


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