All you need to know about Dr Vikram Sarabhai — Father of India’s Space Program

New Delhi: Marking the 99th birth anniversary of India’s space pioneer Vikram Sarabhai, The President of India tweeted on this occasion.

The state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday unveiled his bust at its headquarters in Bengaluru marking his birth anniversary.

The space agency’s former chairmen K Kasturirangan and AS Kiran Kumar and incumbent chairman K Sivan were present on the occasion at the Antriksh Bhavan.

Sarabhai was born on August 12, 1919, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. As the founding father of the Indian space programme, Sarabhai set up the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad in 1947 as a precursor to the ISRO.

“Sarabhai chose space technology to reduce inequality. Under his guidance and leadership, India has been able to achieve what he had envisioned,” Sivan said.

“To mark the centenary, knowledge centres will be set up across the country and scholarships, fellowships and the Sarabhai international award for innovation in space technology will be presented,” Sivan added.

The proposal to name the Chandrayaan-2 lander as “Vikram” was approved by the Department of Space. “As the true tribute we can offer Sarabhai is through our space missions, we will launch nine missions over the next five months, with at least two a month,” Sivan asserted.

Sarabahi was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1966 and Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar medal in 1962, and the Padma Vibhushan in 1972 (posthumously). He died on December 30, 1971, at the age of 52 at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

On his 99th birth anniversary, let’s remember him once again through these lesser known facts:

  • After Russia launched the Sputnik satellite, Sarabhai started convincing the Indian government that the country should concentrate on space research, and hence he is considered the Father of Indian space programme
  • After continuous persuasion, the Indian government agreed to set up the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) in 1962. Sarabhai was the first chairman of the committee.
  • The INCOSPAR was restructured and renamed as Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1969. Sarabhai took over an advisory role in ISRO as well.
  • Space research in India started before the independence. Vikram Sarabhai, along with noted scientist, Homi Jahangir Bhabha, spearheaded Indian space research.
  • Sarabhai founded the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad in the year 1947. The laboratory started its operation from RETREAT, Sarabhai’s residence in Ahmedabad. Its first topic of research was cosmic rays.
  • He also set up India’s first rocket launch site in Thumba, a small village near the Thiruvananthapuram airport in Kerala. The rocket launching site was built amidst coconut groves. A local Catholic church, the St Mary Magadelene’s Church, served as the main office for the scientists; the bishop’s house was converted into a workshop and the cattle shed became the laboratory in which A P J Abdul Kalam worked.
  • Vikram Sarabhai was also responsible for bringing cable television to India. His constant contact with NASA paved a way for the establishment of Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) in 1975.
  • Sarabhai was also the mastermind behind building India’s first satellite, Aryabhata.
  • He was one of the founding members of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA).
  • Vikram Sarabhai received the Padma Bhushan in 1966 for his contribution to India’s progress.
  • On his first death anniversary, the Indian Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp to honour Sarabhai.