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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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20 Amazing Facts About Indian Navy That Everyone Should Know

Indian Navy is also known by the name of Bharatiya Nau Sena. The naval persons are no less than the superheroes.

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The roots of Indian Navy can be traced back to the 17th-century. Wikimedia Commons
The roots of Indian Navy can be traced back to the 17th-century. Wikimedia Commons

NEW DELHI: India is the seventh-largest country in the world and owns the coastline of 7,516.6 km. Here comes the role of the Indian navy, which is responsible for safeguarding and securing such an enormous coastal area. Navy always holds a very strategic role in a country like India.

Indian navy is a prodigious name in itself and budding force to reckon with. Indian Navy is the naval branch of the armed forces of India and works along with the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army. It is the fifth largest Navy and is considered as one of the strongest navies around the world. The headquarters of Navy is located in New Delhi.

Indian Navy is also known by the name of Bharatiya Nau Sena. The naval persons are no less than the superheroes. Their constant will to serve the nation and sheer dedication are commendable.

The current flag of Indian Navy incorporates St. George’s Cross design, a part of the Union Jack. Wikimedia Commons
The current flag of Indian Navy incorporates St. George’s Cross design, a part of the Union Jack. Wikimedia CommonsThe current flag of Indian Navy incorporates St. George’s Cross design, a part of the Union Jack. Wikimedia Commons

Indian Navy Day is celebrated on 4 December and the motto of the naval force is ‘Sham No Varunaḥ’, which means “may the Lord of the water be auspicious unto us”. The current flag of Indian Navy incorporates St. George’s Cross design, a part of the Union Jack.

The roots of Indian Navy can be traced back to the 17th-century. Initially, British East India Company established the naval fleet in India, under the name of East India Company’s Marine in 1612. Later on, it was renamed as Royal Indian Navy but soon after the independence, Royal Indian Navy became Indian Navy.

Here are 20 interesting facts about our naval superheroes of the seas that defend our coastal areas.

  1. Indian Navy is headed by the Chief of Naval Staff. Other high ranks in Navy include Vice Chief of Naval Staff, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Personnel etc.
  2. India’s first aircraft carrier was INS Vikrant. INS Viraat of the Indian navy is the largest aircraft carrier in India.
  3. Ezhimala Naval Academy in Kerala is the largest naval academy in the whole of Asia.

    MARCOS is the special operation unit of the Indian Navy. Wikimedia Commons
    MARCOS is the special operation unit of the Indian Navy. Wikimedia Commons
  4. Indian navy holds the distinction of one of the only two naval aerobatic teams in the world. The name of the aerobatic demonstration team is Sagar Pawan which uses 4 HJT-16 Kiran Mk.2 trainer aircrafts. The colour scheme used by the naval aircrafts is dark blue on white. The other aerobatic demonstration team is Blue Angels of the US Navy.
  5. After the terrorist attack of 26/11, Indian Navy came up with patrolling units known as Sagar Prahari Bal (SPB) to keep a check on India’s coastal waters.
  6. The crucial naval bases of Indian Navy are located in Mumbai, Kochi, Visakhapatnam, Goa, Chennai, Pune, Coimbatore, Chilka and Port Blair.
  7. The Navy works under three commands: Western Command in Mumbai, Eastern Command in Vishakhapatnam and Southern Command in Cochin. All these commands are headed by a Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief.
  8. MARCOS or Marine Commandos are the special operations unit of Indian navy like the Para unit of Army. It is one of the most distinguished and efficient special forces in the world. The force is acknowledged ‘Dadiwala fauj‘ by the various terrorist groups, due to as known by their bearded disguises in civil areas. The dropout rate is about 90 percent, which makes it really difficult to make the cut.

    Ezhimala Naval Academy in Kerala is the largest naval academy in the whole of Asia. Wikimedia Commons
    Ezhimala Naval Academy in Kerala is the largest naval academy in the whole of Asia. Wikimedia Commons
  9. The 1971 Indo-Pakistani war is considered as the largest naval conflicts since the Second World War. During the combat, Navy successfully targeted many enemy ships and destroy the oil tank farms by using anti-ship cruise missiles.
  10. During the Britsh rule in 1946, 20,000 Indian sailors rebelled against the British policies of discrimination and trial of ex-INA soldiers. But unfortunately, the mutiny was suppressed due to inadequate support from the INC and Muslim League.
  11. The naval variant of BrahMos missile is the fastest cruise missile in the world. The missile can zoom at a speed of Mach 2.8 – 3.0. This capability makes India the only country with supersonic cruise missiles in all of their defense forces.
  12. Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhosale is considered as the Father of Indian Navy. Chhatrapati built a strong naval presence across the coast of Konkan and Goa to protect sea trade.
  13. Indian Navy has a dedicated multi-brand communication satellite called GSAT – 7. It was launched by ISRO to help Indian Navy in acquiring the blue water capabilities in a much better way.

    Indian Navy has a dedicated multi-brand communication satellite called GSAT – 7. Wikimedia Commons
    Indian Navy has a dedicated multi-brand communication satellite called GSAT – 7. Wikimedia Commons
  14. The Naval soldiers of the Indian Navy have successfully completed an expedition to the North Pole and the South Pole.
  15. Indian Navy was the first navy in the world to send a submariner to an expedition to Mt. Everest. The expedition was led by Lt. Cdr. M.S. Kohli in 1965.
  16. The first independent operation of the Indian Navy’s was against Portuguese Navy during the liberation of Goa in 1961.
  17. The first Chief of Staff of the Indian Navy was Vice Admiral Ram Dass Katari who assumed the office on April 22, 1958.
  18. Indian Navy played a decisive role in the success of Kargil War. However, this information was kept under wraps for a long time. Personals from the MARCOS unit fought alongside Indian army in the Himalayas under the naval operation, Talwar.
  19. INS Arihant is the first ballistic missile submarine to have been built by a country other than the five permanent members of the UNSC. It is a 6,000-tonne vessel and India’s only nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine.
  20. All the ships of Indian Navy are prefixed with INS which means Indian Naval Ship or Indian Navy Station.
There are 11 destroyers deployed by the Indian Navy. Wikimedia Commons
There are 11 destroyers deployed by the Indian Navy. Wikimedia Commons

Indian Navy keeps itself abreast of any adversity by striking a balance between its warships, aircrafts and patrol vessels. The current operational fleet of the Indian navy consists of 1 aircraft carrier, 11 destroyers, 14 frigates, 24 corvettes and 16 submarines. Aiming high on ‘Make in India’ program, most Navy ships and submarines are now manufactured indigenously.