While India celebrated the historic achievement of the Chandrayaan-3 moon mission landing on the lunar south pole on Wednesday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s faux pas has become a subject of ridicule.
Speaking at an event in Kolkata shortly before the Chandrayaan-3 lander reached the moon, Chief Minister Banerjee confused astronaut Rakesh Sharma with Bollywood actor-filmmaker Rakesh Roshan.
“On behalf of the people of West Bengal, I send my advance congratulations to ISRO. Scientists must get credit. Credit must go to the country. When Rakesh Roshan [sic] landed on the moon, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked him how India looked from there,” Ms Banerjee said.
Rakesh Sharma, an Indian Air Force pilot became the first Indian to travel to space in 1984 as part of the Soviet Union’s Soyuz T-11 expedition. The astronaut spoke to then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from space during a live televised news conference.
Indira Gandhi asked Mr Sharma, “Upar se Bharat kaisa dikhta hai aapko?” (How does India look like from space?). He responded by quoting the poet Iqbal and saying, “Saare jahaan se achcha” (Better than the whole world).
The West Bengal Chief Minister’s gaffe went viral on social media, triggering thousands of memes at her expense.
Strangely, Ms Banerjee was not the only politician to be involved in a Chandrayaan-3-related goof-up. On the other side of the country, a Rajasthan minister congratulated the “passengers” of the Chandrayaan-3 mission despite the fact that it is an unmanned mission.
“If we are successful and make a safe landing, I salute the passengers, Our country has taken a step further in science and space research. I congratulate the countrymen for this,” Rajasthan Sports Minister Ashok Chandna said as quoted by news agency PTI.
India made history by becoming the first country to land a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole, a region that is thought to contain water ice. The touchdown took place at 6:04 pm on Wednesday and was met with cheers and celebrations at the ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru.
The rover Pragyan will explore the lunar surface for the next 14 days, or one lunar day, sending back images and data to scientists on Earth.