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Monday, September 12, 2011

Who is considered as the father of Space Program in India

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai – Father of Space program in India

“If ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) is doing well and has a great vision, it is only because the vision of its founder (Vikram Sarabhai) is shared by one and all in the organization” 
                                                                              - ISRO chairman Dr. K Radhakrishnan.

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai (1919 – 1971) was a visionary, innovator, industrialist and scientist who is credited with getting India to space. Dr. Sarabhai was born in family of industrialist Ambalal Sarabhai and Sarla Devi.

It was with Vikram Sarabhai’s tremendous effort that India started space program and today has reached great heights in space research. Dr. Sarabhai emphasized the importance of Space program for India stating -     

“There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But, we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society”.

This statement shows how he saw future and today the importance of space mission in India is clearly evident with its growth and requirements.

Vikram Sarabhai did his schooling in private school run by his parents “Retreat”. After receiving good schooling education and graduation from Gujarat College, Ahmedabad; Sarabhai went on to study at Cambridge university and earned tripods degree from Sr. John’s college, 1940. As the world war had started, Dr. Sarabhai returned to India and joined as a research scholar under Sir C. V. Raman (First Bharat Ratna Awardee). In 1945, he returned to Cambridge and was awarded Ph. D. in 1947.

Marriage and Children
Dr. Sarabhai married Mrinalini Sarabhai in 1942. Dr. Sarabhai has two childrens – Kartikeya Sarabhai and Mallika Sarabhai

Physical Research Laboratory (PRL)
In November 1947, Dr. Sarabhai established PRL in a room in M. G. Science institute of Ahmedabad (Gujarat). It got support from Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Department of Atomic Energy.

Rocket Launching Stations (TERLS)
Vikram Sarabhi set up first Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) with support from Dr. Homi Bhabha at Thumba near Thiruvanthapuram. The reason for establishing the station at Thumba was that it was close to the equator. The first rocked with sodium vapour was launched in 1963. In 1965, U.N. General Assembly gave recognition to TERLS as international facility.

India Space Program
Public Domain Image - Government of India
Dr. Vikram Sarabhai played a tremendous role in development of some of the premier institutions of the country –
  • Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
  • Physical Research Laboratory (PRL)
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM – A)
  • Community Science Centre, Ahmedabad (CSC)
  • Uranium Corporation of India Limited, Bihar (UCIL)
  • Variable Energy Cyclotoron Project, Kolkata
  • Faster Breeder Test Reactor, Kalpakkam
  • Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad
  • Darpan Academy of Performing Arts, Ahmedabad
  • Sarabhai Chemicals
  • Electronics Corporation of India Limited, Hyderabad (ECIL)          
  • Centre for Environmental Planning & Technology (CEPT)
  • National Institute of Design (NID)
  • Ahmedabad Textiles Industry’s Research Association (ATIRA)
  • Blind People’s Association, Ahmedabad

Awards & Honours
  • Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award (1962)
  • President – Physics section (Indian Science Congress) (1962)
  • President of Atomic Energy Commission (1966)
  • Padma Bhushan (1966)
  • President of General Conference of I.A.E.A., Verina (1970)
  • Vice-President of 4th U.N. conference on “Peaceful use of Atomic Energy” (1971)
  • Padma Vibhushan (1972 – posthumous)
  • International Astronomical Union, Sydney named Moon Crater BESSEL in the Sea of Serenity as Sarabhai Crater (1974)
Father of Indian Space Program
Vikram Sarabhai
Public Domain Image
Vikram Sarabhai, a life by Amrita Singh

Vikram Sarabhai passed away on 31st December, 1971; but his legacy to the nation is immortal and here to stay forever.

 “There is no leader and there are no led. A leader, if one chooses to identify one, has to be a cultivator rather than a manufacturer. He has to provide the soil and overall climate and  the environment in which the seed can grow. One wants permissive individuals who do not  have compelling need to reassure themselves that they are leaders”
  – Vikram A. Sarabhai

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