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Dr. Vikram Sarabhai: The man who fathered the Indian space program

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By Nithin Sridhar

On the 12th of August in 1919, Sarla Devi, wife of noted industrialist Ambalal Sarabhai, gave birth to a son in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, who later grew up to become the father of Indian space program.

Picture credit: en.wikipedia.org
Picture credit: en.wikipedia.org

Today is the 96th birth anniversary of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the renowned Indian physicist who was instrumental in the establishment of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai was one among the eight children of Sarla Devi. His early education happened at a private school and he passed his matriculation from Gujarat College in Ahmedabad. After matriculation, he joined St. John’s College, University of Cambridge in England. In 1940, he received Tripos in Natural Sciences.

In 1942, he got married to Mrinalini Sarabhai, a celebrated Indian Classical dancer and choreographer. When the second World War started, he briefly returned to India and worked under Dr. C.V.Raman at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru. In 1945, he went back to Cambridge and completed his PhD.

When India got its independence in 1947, Dr. Sarabhai returned back to India. He persuaded various friends and charitable institutions controlled by his family to fund a research institute in Ahmedabad. His efforts led to the establishment of Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) on 11 November 1947. He set up various observation centers across the country due to his interest in studying solar physics and cosmic rays. He was also instrumental in the establishment of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. But, his most important contribution was the setting up of ISRO.

In 1962, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru founded Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) with Dr. Sarabhai as its chairman. This INCOSPAR later grew and became ISRO in 1969. Dr. Sarabhai had to do a lot of convincing regarding the importance of a space program before the government finally gave a consent to it. Dr. Sarabhai has been often quoted as saying:

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.”

Apart from heading ISRO, Dr. Sarabhai was also appointed as the Chairman of Atomic Commission in 1966, after the death of Dr. Homi Bhabha in an air-crash.

When Dr. Bhabha was alive, he helped Dr. Sarabhai to set up India’s first rocket launching station. The station was established near Thiruvananthapuram on the coast of Arabian Sea and the inaugural flight with sodium vapor payload was launched in November 1963.

The efforts at fabrication and launching of the first Indian satellite was started by Dr. Sarabhai which finally bore fruit in 1975, when “Aryabhata” was put into orbit.

Dr. Sarabhai passed away on 31st December 1971 at Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The cause of death was determined as heart attack due to excessive stress. The contribution of Dr. Sarabhai to Indian society is very vast and diverse. He was instrumental in founding many institutions like Community Science Centre in Ahmedabad, Nehru Foundation for Development in Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad Textiles Industrial Research Association (ATIRA), Center for Environmental Planning and Technology, Darpana Academy of Performing Art in Ahmedabad, Faster Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) in Kalpakkam, and Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) in Bihar among many others.

Dr. Sarabhai was awarded Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in the Republic of India, in 1966 and was posthumously awarded Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award bestowed in India.

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Our Culture of Environmental Protection has long been Forgotten, says Union Minister Harsh Vardhan

The Environment Minister at the Union, Harsh Vardhan, stated that India has forgotten its important culture of environment protection

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Union Minister
Union Environment Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan. Twitter
  • Harsh Vardhan, India’s Union Minister, stated that environmental protection, which is a part of the country’s culture, has been fading away
  • The Environment minister blames the modern lifestyle behind this problem
  • He also stressed that the issue of global warming is taken seriously and attempts are underway in all organizations

July 08, 2017: During a plantation drive at a District Park in Paschim Vihar that marked the beginning of ‘Van Mahotsav’ celebrations, the Union Minister Harsh Vardhan stated that Environmental protection is a significant part of the Indian culture.

Blaming the present and modern day lifestyle habits, he notes that we are forgetting our culture and letting the environment concerns eliminate from it.

Stressing the importance of scientific research, the Environment Minister urged science to solve the basic problems such as water and sanitation. He suggests the scientists to “start from the grassroots level”

ALSO READ: Sahel: Climate Change May Turn Africa’s Most Dried Region Green, say Researchers

He also claimed that India could have set up a big example for the whole world had it stuck and continued with environmental protection in accordance with its culture. He reminded us that water, forests, air, and land are a matter of serious concern.

Dr. Vardhan also expanded that the issue of climate change and global warming is a burning issue and that all organizations of the government are making sincere efforts to take effective actions.

In times of potential danger to humanity, the minister said that ‘environmental soldiers’ are necessary for the country.

ISRO is working in the field of carbon emissions. The International Solar Alliance (ISA), with the cooperation of France, is a Prime Minister’s initiative to address climate change.

On this special occasion, the efforts of Anil Madhav Dave, a former environmental minister were also acknowledged.

– prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394

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Indian Space Programme deserves kudos for sending a record 104 Satellites into the Orbit at one go

According to a chinese daily, even though the recent record-breaking accomplishment of Indian space program was marvelous, it still has a long way to go

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PSLV C35, ISRO, wikimedia commons

Beijing, Feb 16, 2017: India deserves kudos for sending a record 104 satellites into the orbit at one go but it was way behind than China in space technology, a Chinese newspaper said on Thursday.

An editorial in the state-run Global Times said by smashing the previous Russian record of putting 37 satellites into the orbit in 2014, India’s frugal space exploration offered “food for thought for other countries”.

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India did a good job but has a long way to go as there still was no Indian astronaut in space and the plan to establish a space station was yet to take off, the paper said.

“This is perhaps the first widely followed world record India has made in the field of space technology. The Indians have reason to be proud,” the daily said.

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“However, the space technology race is not mainly about the number of satellites at one go. It’s fair to say the significance of this achievement is limited. In this regard, Indian scientists know more than the Indian public, who are encouraged by media reports.

“It’s a hard-won achievement for India to reach current space technology level with a relatively small investment. It offers food for thought for other countries. India launched a lunar probe in 2008 and ranked first among Asian countries by having an unmanned rocket orbit Mars in 2013.

“Nonetheless, the development of a country’s space technology is determined by the size of its input.

“The US space budget in 2013 was $39.3 billion, China $6.1 billion, Russia $5.3 billion, Japan $3.6 billion and India $1.2 billion.

“As India’s GDP is about one-fifth to one-fourth that of China’s, the share of investment in space technology in India’s GDP is similar to that of China’s.

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“There is another figure that deserves attention. India’s defence budget is about one-third of China’s, a higher percentage of GDP than that of China.”

It said the Indian space programme was based on certain considerations, including an ambition to make New Delhi a great power.

Also, India felt it should remain present in space technology development, given its close links with military, the daily said.

“On the whole, India’s space technology still lags behind the US’ and China’s. It has not yet formed a complete system.

“There is no Indian astronaut in space and the country’s plan to establish a space station has not started.” (IANS)

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ISRO aiming for a World Record by Launching 83 Satellites on single Rocket in early 2017

The major challenge for the proposed mission is to hold the rocket in the same orbit till all the 83 satellites are ejected

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Representational image. Flickr

Chennai, October 28, 2016: Indian space agency ISRO is aiming for a world record by putting into orbit 83 satellites — two Indian and 81 foreign — on a single rocket in early 2017, a top official of Antrix Corporation said.

He said the company’s order book stands at Rs 500 crore while negotiations are on for launch order for another Rs 500 crore.

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“During the first quarter of 2017 we plan to launch a single rocket carrying 83 satellites. Most foreign satellites are nano satellites,” Rakesh Sasibhushan, Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Antrix Corporation told IANS.

Antrix Corporation is the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

He said all the 83 satellites will be put in a single orbit and hence there will not be any switching off and on of the rocket.

The major challenge for the proposed mission is to hold the rocket in the same orbit till all the satellites are ejected.

He said ISRO will use its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle XL (PSLV-XL) rocket variant for the record launch.

For ISRO, launch of multiple satellites at one go is not a new thing as it has done it several times in the past.

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According to Sasibhushan, the total payload/weight carried off into space by the PSLV-XL rocket will be around 1,600 kg.

Citing non-disclosure agreements, Sasibhushan declined to name the clients whose satellites ISRO will put into orbit.

He said some satellites belong to clients whose satellites ISRO put into orbit in the past.

Meanwhile, ISRO is conducting high-altitude tests with its own cryogenic engine that is expected to power the heavier rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mk III (GSLV Mk III).

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The GSLV Mk III has a capacity to carry around four tonnes of load.

The rocket is scheduled to be flown in January 2017.

The GSLV Mk III rocket is expected to save precious foreign exchange for India as it pays to launch heavier satellites through foreign space agencies.

In an interaction, ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said the agency is looking forward to develop four-tonne communication satellites that will give the same output as a six-tonner. (IANS)