In the midst of joyous nationwide celebrations for Chandrayaan-3's lunar triumph, an extraordinary tale unfolds in the shadows of a relief camp in strife-ridden Manipur. Meet Justice Konjengbam, a 20-year-old dreamer crafting rockets in a makeshift laboratory amid the chaos.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi declares 'National Space Day' after ISRO's lunar feat, Justice, displaced by violence, nurtures his rocket scientist aspirations in a camp for the internally displaced. Fleeing his home with family, Justice, a self-taught enthusiast, had already test-fired his improvised rockets, yearning for greater heights.
Stranded in a relief camp at Moirang College, Justice, a fifth-semester Physics student, reflects on his rocketry journey. From a humble PVC pipe rocket in April 2022 to a three-kilometer soar this year, his dreams face challenges amid the state's law and order turmoil.
Amidst uncertainties, Justice's eyes sparkle with pride at Chandrayaan-3's success. "I wish I could be part of ISRO's mission. I want to learn more about the propulsion engine," he shares. His 'Project Cocoon' symbolizes hope—a rocket soaring like a butterfly breaking free.
“I have named my experimentations on rocket propulsion as ‘Project Cocoon’. Out of a cocoon comes a butterfly flying in the air. Likewise, out of my lab a rocket will propel in the air and touch the sky”, said Justice, adding that the current law and order situation has badly hampered his work, yet he is not ready to give up too soon.
For Justice, rocketry isn't just a hobby; it's a passion etched in hardship. His mother, Ranjana, proud of his achievements, laments the hurdle of poverty. Influenced by Hollywood Sci-Fi, Justice's solitary rocketry journey started with borrowed money and online components.
In the face of displacement, Justice finds solace in family and hope from Moirang College teachers. Dr. Raghu Ningthoujam, ISRO's Deputy Director from the same district, emphasizes the need for mentorship to complement Justice's rocketry dreams.
As the nation cheers for space triumphs, Justice's story weaves resilience, dreams, and a relentless pursuit of the sky in the most unexpected corners of Manipur.