The Hindu Business Line

Sa­lut­ing Vikram Sarab­hai, who pushed In­dia to reach for the stars

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Google on Mon­day cel­e­brated the 100th birthday of Vikram Am­balal Sarab­hai, one of In­dia’s great­est sci­en­tists and re­garded as the fa­ther of In­dia’s space pro­gramme, with a Doodle. Fit­tingly, this comes just as In­dia launched Chan­drayaan-2 space­craft to the Moon with a lan­der named Vikram, which is ex­pected to touch­down on our satel­lite’s sur­face on Septem­ber 7.

Af­ter re­turn­ing from Cam­bridge in 1947, Sarab­hai per­suaded char­i­ta­ble trusts con­trolled by his fam­ily and friends to en­dow a re­search in­sti­tu­tion near home in Ahmedabad.

Thus, emerged the Phys­i­cal Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory in Ahmedabad, when he was just 28 years. From here started his long and epic jour­ney to build In­dia’s space pro­gramme.

Sarab­hai was also Chair­man of the Atomic En­ergy Com­mis­sion. He, along with other Ahmedabad-based in­dus­tri­al­ists, played a ma­jor role in the cre­ation of the In­dian In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment- Ahmedabad.

The es­tab­lish­ment of the In­dian Space Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ISRO) was one of Sarab­hai’s great­est achieve­ments. He suc­cess­fully con­vinced the gov­ern­ment of the im­por­tance of a space pro­gramme for a de­vel­op­ing coun­try like In­dia af­ter the Rus­sian Sputnik launch.

No am­bi­gu­ity, no fan­tasy

Em­pha­sis­ing the im­por­tance of a space pro­gramme, Sarab­hai once said, “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.”

In fact, Sarab­hai started a project for the fabri­ca­tion and launch of an In­dian satel­lite. As a re­sult of which the first In­dian satel­lite, Aryab­hata, was put in or­bit in 1975 by a Rus­sian rocket.

From that small be­gin­ning to the lat­est Chan­drayaan-2 launch, In­dia’s space pro­gramme has come a long way, with plenty more to come, in­clud­ing send­ing a man to space.

Re­mem­ber­ing Sarab­hai on his birth cen­te­nary, President Ram Nath Kovind tweeted: “Con­sid­ered the fa­ther of our space pro­gramme, Dr Sarab­hai was a stal­wart of In­dian science. He built sev­eral in­sti­tu­tions; men­tored & in­spired gen­er­a­tions of sci­en­tists. We cher­ish his ser­vices and his legacy.”

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