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When ex-ISRO chief was told to ‘get lost’ by ISRO satellite centre

Exhorting students to learn from their failures in life and take risks, former chairman Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) K Sivan on Friday said Chandrayaan-3 was defined a day after the failure of Chandrayaan-2.

Addressing the convocation ceremony of National Institute of Technology (NIT), Goa, Sivan said, “…when you see Chandrayaan-2’s failure, we did not keep quiet. We defined Chandrayaan-3 the next day itself. The following day, I got the approval from the honourable PM [Prime Minister] to go ahead with the project.”

“We learnt what went wrong in Chandrayaan-2…we were unhappy [for] that moment, but in the next moment, you have to rise…and now you can see the success of Chandrayaan-3. So, this is a big lesson we learnt. You should know how to learn from failure and how to conquer failure,” said Sivan.

Stating that he actually wanted to become a school teacher, Sivan recounted how he could not land a job at ISRO’s satellite centre and was told to “get lost”.

“After BE, I thought I would go for a job, but a job was not easy to get. I was passionate about doing masters and after doing masters, I went to ISRO’s satellite centre to get a job. They said you are a useless fellow. You are not getting the job, get lost. Finally, I became the chairman of the same organisation…Because I did not get a job in the satellite centre, I got a job at the rocket centre,” he said.

Festive offer

“In my career, I never got what I wanted. After completing the pre-university course, I wanted to go for a BE [degree] engineering, but my father said no…he said he does not have the money to send me for BE and asked me to go for BSc. After BSc, I wanted to pursue MSc, but my father refused again. He said ‘now you decide whatever you want’ or go back for a BE…”

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Sivan said his success as the project director of the GSLV and the risks taken by him as a leader there made him visible to the ISRO community.

“…the GSLV was continuously failing. They had taken me and put it in the ocean. They put me as a project director of a four-time failed project. All my friends and seniors, instead of congratulating me, [they] were calling and giving me condolences. [They said] you are the fool number one to accept it…But, I made that project a success,” Sivan said.

“In my career, I learnt one thing. If something is denied to you, something bigger and better is waiting for you.”

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Sivan said the country is now gearing up for Gaganyaan — maiden human spaceflight mission of the country.

Urging the youth to take risks, the former ISRO chief told the graduating students to become entrepreneurs in the space industry.

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“The younger generation must aspire to become job creators rather than job seekers. India has now implemented space sector reforms…The space sector is now open to the public. Now, not only ISRO, private people can also make rockets, they can make satellites, they can launch…We don’t want ISRO to grow vertically. We want horizontal growth,” he said.

Sivan said when one is set out to take on challenges of the world, three things – how to conquer fear of failure, taking calculated risks and innovation or lateral thinking – are important.

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“Suppose you wanted to swim in an ocean, you should jump. Don’t wait for the waves to come down,” he added.

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