PUNE: When Neil Armstrong, the first person who stepped on the Moon said, “I have come to a new place. And this new place is not on Earth, a new planet”. I found this line a very inspiring one,” said astrophysicist Jayant Narlikar. “I was 31-year-old back then, and was there as part of Astronomy Institute member at Cambridge.”
“I remember the BBC coverage of the event on a Black and white television, as then, there was no colour TV, at least in Cambridge,” added Narlikar.
Somak Raychaudhury, the Director of Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) said, “I was just seven-year-old when the first man landed on the Moon. It was my earliest memory which I vividly remember. Of course, we witnessed this event on the radio as there were no televisions back then, but I remember, I had collected the pictures of the Apollo mission and Neil Armstrong and had pasted it on my wall, scrapbook, etc.”
“I always wanted to become an astronaut. However, that time I was too young, still had this wish,” he said adding, “My father had brought me a huge bath towel which had the pictures of astronauts and the Apollo mission engraved on it. I remember my mother used to wrap me in that towel. It was indeed an inspiring event.”
“Whenever I interact with the students now, who are born after a man went on the Moon, I always wonder over it. It is a watershed experience for me,” he said. Earlier, through my lectures, I used to throw the light on the fact that indeed man landed on the Moon and it was not created in one of those Hollywood studios. I had done a lot of research over it,” he added.
“I am happy that Chandrayaan-II will be launched exactly two days after human’s first step on the Moon completes 50 years,” he said.
Savitribai Phule Pune University Vice-Chancellor Nitin Karmalkar said, “I was a young student 50 years ago, but I am so glad that my area of work is Planetary Geology. The Moon has got separated from the Earth and has a few similarities like the rocks.”
“Back then, when I heard the news of human landing on the Moon, it was unbelievable. We reached another planet. It was just amazing! The event was very inspiring as during my career path Chandrayaan-I launch took place. I think Chandrayaan will be probing the Southern part of the Moon and it would be very interesting to study it as a person from Geology as the craters on the Moon and the Lonar crater formed due to meteor shower are same,” he said.
A senior scientist in the field of Chemistry, Arvind Natu, said that Apollo mission inspired them to do something big for our country. “I was an M.Sc student back then in 1969 when the historic moment of man landing on the Moon took place. Till then for us, the Moon was a poetic symbol. It was an epoch event. We understood the importance of research as NASA gave out the details of the mission. The mission inspired us to conduct research,” said Natu.
Director of the Nehru Planetarium, Arvind Paranjpye said, “It was an inspiring event which connected us to Astronomy. I was located in a village near Jaipur back then. I was probably in standard V or VI. We heard the news about it on the radio and listened to the live event on for the entire night.”
“At that time, I was unable to understand the English language. But we had Jaydev Singh, who was the commentator and used to do the commentary for Hockey matches or Independence Day or Republic Day parades. He translated the entire event in Hindi for our country,” he said.
“I remember that the entire country was excited about the event. Our country had also come out with the poster telegraph (stamp) based on the event,” he reminisced.
Exactly 50 years ago, man conquered the Moon. Everyone was praying for the astronaut’s safe return to Earth. A stainless steel plaque was planted on the Moon by Armstrong and Aldrin which said, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind. We have again started studying the possibility of life on the Moon with an aim to enable man’s existence on the Moon. All countries conducting space research have to value the first message taken by us to the space. We shouldn’t take our conflicts up there in space.
— Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma (Retd), First Indian in space.