Today is the day Vikram Sarabhai passed away. He was the man who started the Physical Research Laboratory, the Indian Space Research Organization and Indian Institute of Management. 30 years have passed since the great man left us, and look what we have achieved. India has done well in space research programmes. May it be the numerous satellites we launched. May it be Chandrayan. Sarabhai indeed dreamt a dream come true.
After studying in Cambridge university in 1940, Sarabhai returned to India and joined the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and began research in cosmic rays under the guidance of Sir C. V. Raman. He returned to Cambridge after the war and was awarded a PhD in 1947. Vikram returned to an independent India in 1947. Looking at the needs of the country, he persuaded charitable trusts controlled by his family and friends to endow a research institution near home in Ahmedabad. Thus, Vikram Sarabhai founded the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad. This visionary was only 28 years old at that time.
The establishment of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was one of his 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.
“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.”
– Dr. Vikram Sarabhai
Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha, widely regarded as the father of India’s nuclear science program, supported Dr. Sarabhai in setting up the first rocket launching station in India. This center was established at Thumba near Thiruvananthapuram on the coast of the Arabian Sea, primarily because of its proximity to the equator. After a remarkable effort in setting up the infrastructure, personnel, communication links, and launch pads, the inaugural flight was launched on November 21, 1963 with a sodium vapour payload. As a result of dialogue with NASA, Dr. Sarabhai launched the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) during July 1975 – July 1976. Dr. Sarabhai started a project for the fabrication and launch of an Indian Satellite. As a result, the first Indian satellite, Aryabhata, was put in orbit in 1975.
On this very day, thirty years back, Sarabhai died at Kovalam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. He was visiting Thiruvananthapuram to attend the opening ceremony of the Thumba railway station. He was under a great amount of stress due to excessive travelling and a huge work-load which adversely affected his health.
He is considered the Father of the Indian space program. The innovator, the industrialist and the visionary.