Debate on missing science from India’s Mars orbiter

And a personal story.

Today marks seven years since the launch of India’s Mars orbiter, Mangalyaan. Some of you have read my article on Mangalyaan’s low scientific output but might have missed the debate that followed. In any case, here’s a quick brief of the matter and a personal story to close this newsletter.

Missing science from Mangalyaan

Mangalyaan is often hailed by the media and public at large as ISRO's best space mission. But is it? Despite orbiting the red planet for six years, it has a huge vacuum of scientific publications––less than 20 papers! I investigate this concerning case.

Missing science from Mangalyaan

The article got a response from two planetary scientists, one of whom used to work at ISRO. They raise some intriguing points to explain the lack of Mangalyaan science, pointing to a deeper problem rooted in Indian academia.

Debate: Is ISRO to blame?

However, some points in the article that push the blame away from ISRO needed a rebuttal. So I have responded back.

ISRO still at the helm anyway

Be sure to read the full debate!

Article rejections

I wanted to write the article for months, and thought Sep 24, 2020 would be a good time to publish since it marks six years of Mangalyaan orbiting Mars. Like every year, I expected Indian media outlets to put out stories on the mission. So I started writing to publications weeks in advance. My pitch was rejected, one after another, by eight publications!

I was pretty frustrated, and disappointed at myself. I couldn’t figure out why the piece wasn’t going through on a single publication. Getting pitches rejected is common, but this one felt unusual. I decided to publish the article on my blog anyway because the story felt important, and as a science communicator, I wanted to play my small part in clarifying facts about the mission even if it may not reach a large enough audience.

The article turned out to be one of my most well received. It garnered over 70,000 views and hundreds of shares, including from people in the industry. The article even got republished by The Wire Science and The Space Review!

I’m sharing this story with you hoping that a fellow writer finds it inspiring enough to keep putting out content, and to thank my supporters on Patreon because of whom I could take the time to write the article and effectively get paid for it.


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