The centenary of Indian innovator, industrialist, and pioneer of the country’s space programme – Vikram Sarabhai – was commemorated by Google on August 12. The award-winning physicist, who established Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was honoured with a doodle illustrated by Mumbai-based artist Pavan Rajurkar.
The noted scientist earned himself the moniker ‘Father of India’s space programme’ after he set up the Indian National Committee for Space Research in 1962, which was later renamed ISRO.
The visionary was born in an affluent family of industrialists on August 12, 1919, in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad. He attended Gujarat Arts and Science College before passing out of Cambridge University with a doctorate.
In the year our country became independent, he founded the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in his hometown when he was just 28-years-old. However, his interest and desire for scientific research and advancement did not let him rest. After watching the successful launch of Russia’s Sputnik, he managed to convince the Indian government of the need and importance of such space programmes in the country as well. Subsequent events eventually led to the birth of India’s first space research organisation.
Commenting on the need for a space programme in India, Dr Sarabhai had famously said: “There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose... We must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society.”
He received immense help and support from the ‘Father of India’s Nuclear Science Programme’ -- Dr Homi J Bhabha – in his endeavours. He helped Sarabhai set up the country’s first rocket launching station near Thiruvananthapuram, complete with advanced infrastructure, skilled staff, and launch pads. Its first flight took off on November 21, 1963.
In his lifetime, Dr Sarabhai was constantly engaged in dialogues with the US space agency NASA, which culminated into the successful launch of the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) between July 1975-July 1976. However, he didn't live to see it, after dying of a massive heart attack in 1971.
The innovator was also instrumental in starting a project that helped launch India’s first satellite Aryabhata into the Earth’s orbit in 1975. To honour him, a crater on the Moon was named after him posthumously in 1973. Moreover, the lander of India’s second manned Moon mission Chandrayaan-2 has been named Vikram after him and it is scheduled to touch the lunar surface in September.
His industrialist background and interests in varied subjects ensured that he contributed to the conception of several other institutes in the country, such as the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA), the Ahmedabad Textile Industry's Research Association (ATIRA) and the (CEPT).
He was honoured with one of the country's highest civilian awards -- Padma Bhushan -- in the year 1966. The Padma Vibhushan was conferred on him posthumously in 1972.