Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Stranded in Space: Nambi Narayanan, Sunita Williams and other mysteries

The Universe is stranger than we can imagine. Here is a visual round-up of space advancements and mysteries in the recent past that will continue to make us sit up and wonder

Published: Jul 11, 2024 06:55:01 PM IST
Updated: Jul 11, 2024 06:58:39 PM IST

Image: Photo Courtesy Rocketry: The Nambi EffectImage: Photo Courtesy Rocketry: The Nambi Effect
A portrait of India's venerable space scientist Nambi Narayanan. It has just come to light that the 1994 espionage case in which Narayanan was falsely implicated was the handiwork of a Kerala police officer to justify his illegal detention of a Maldivian woman after she rejected his amorous advances, according to the CBI. The cop had framed Narayanan, accusing him of selling space tech secrets to the Maldivian woman backed by Pakistan! Narayan was arrested and tortured, his reputation damaged, exemplifying abuse of law and authority. Now retired, Narayanan was a rocket scientist at the Indian Space Research Organisation mentored by Vikram Sarabhai in the 60s. With expertise in liquid propulsion, Narayanan introduced the liquid fuel rocket technology in India in the early 1970s, building the Viking engine that is still the workhorse of all the launches made by ISRO.

Image: Photo Courtesy Rocketry: The Nambi EffectImage: Idrees MOHAMMED / AFP
School students attend an inaugural workshop on planetary defence hosted by Chairman S Somanath at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) headquarters in Bengaluru on July 3, 2024. With recent successful missions like Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya-L1, India aims to contribute significantly to planetary defence, seeking an active role in global efforts to develop technical and programming capabilities to detect and shield the Earth from asteroids

Image: Photo Courtesy Rocketry: The Nambi EffectImage: VCG via Getty Images
The return capsule of the Chang'e 6 probe lands at the designated landing area on June 25, 2024, in Siziwang Banner, Ulanqab City, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China. The return probe touched down on Earth, bringing back the world's first samples collected from the moon's far side, and marking another remarkable achievement in China's space exploration endeavors.

Image: Photo Courtesy Rocketry: The Nambi EffectImage: Handout / NASA / AFP
This handout picture shows NASA's Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams inside the vestibule between the forward port on the International Space Station's Harmony module and Boeing's Starliner spacecraft on July 2, 2024.  NASA insisted that the first astronauts to fly Boeing's troubled Starliner are definitely not "stranded" at the ISS despite having no clear timeframe for bringing them home. Scheduled for a week's stay, the astronauts have been delayed in returning by a month due to an array of issues with Strainer's propulsion system.

Image: Photo Courtesy Rocketry: The Nambi EffectImage: Lorena Sopena Lopez/Anadolu via Getty Images
The world premiere of the Space Aerostatic Capsule, a closed and pressurised cabin designed to fly at 20,000 meters altitude, developed by the aerospace company Zero 2 Infinity and Ultramagic, at The European Balloon Festival, the largest hot air balloon event in Igualada, Spain on July 11, 2024. The capsule, an experimental project, was inspired by the music producer Burak Yeter, who plans to perform DJ sets at high altitudes, bringing the space experience closer to humans.

Image: Photo Courtesy Rocketry: The Nambi EffectImage: Valentine CHAPUIS / AFP
France's renowned pole-vaulter Renaud Lavillenie competes during the pole-vault event La Perche aux Ètoiles at the Air and Space Museum in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, on June 15, 2024. The unique museum event gave the French an opportunity to see this extraordinary sport up close with the stars and the athletes for a true spectacle of sporting prowess before the 2024 Olympics

Image: Photo Courtesy Rocketry: The Nambi EffectImage: Handout / EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY / AFP
This handout image released by the European Space Agency (ESA) and captured by the Hubble Telescope on July 10, 2024, shows the star cluster "Omega Centauri". There are supermassive black holes and much smaller ones, which are born when giant stars die in supernova explosions. But one of the enduring mysteries of the cosmos has been the strange absence of medium-sized black holes between these two extremes. On July 10, 2024, astronomers said they found the best evidence yet of one of these "missing link" black holes.

Image: Photo Courtesy Rocketry: The Nambi EffectImage: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee, Thomas Williams, PHANGS team via REUTERS
Spiral galaxy NGC 1300, located 69 million light-years away from Earth, is seen in an undated James Webb Space Telescope image. NGC 1300 is considered to be prototypical of barred spiral galaxies. Barred spirals differ from normal spiral galaxies in that the arms of the galaxy do not spiral all the way into the centre but are connected to the two ends of a straight bar of stars containing the nucleus at its centre.