ISRO, initially, Indian National Committee for space Research, formally incorporated in 15th August 1969, how from a humble beginning is now a living example of passion, dedication and determination.
The book ISRO- A personal History is a authors account of his days at the Organization, working as junior engineer at reactor control division , DAE(Department of Atomic energy) he got to know through a friend of a scientist Dr.Vikram Sarabhai, founder, PRL, physical Reasearch laboratory, Ahmedabad, looking for young engineers to volunteer for setting up a rocket launch pad in India, who in turn would be sent to train at NASA.
The dilemma to forego the secured career at DAE to volunteer for a new project with unknown future was sleepless nights, until finally the decision to join the latter proved to be successful, and with a group of other engineers trained they returned to India.
The selection of site for the rocket launch pad was Thumba, kerala, the site was chosen since the project was about studying electro jets, strong belt of charged particles, above magnetic equator, and geographically the place was beneath it and also due to logistical conveneince, developed later as TERLS, Thumba Equatorial Rocket launching station.
The authors explains how at TERLS, being incharge of telemetry and tracking, overseeing the launch of sounding rocket from a foreign launcher, to the challenges, failures and success of developing an indigenous launch vehicle SLV-3 , working under the new and able leadership of Prof.Satish Dhawan and the process of institutionalization.
Later , when incharge as director of Sriharikota, SHAR, how ASLV , Augmented Satellite launch vehicle has been built and launched successfully and which would be the precursor to the work horse PSLV, Polar Satellite Launch vehicle.
ISRO, according to the author now has launched numerous PSLV’s carrying in its payload various satellites of both Indian and foreign origin for various application and later developed cryogenic engine powered GSLV to launch GSAT’s.
Personally, after reading this book, i felt , had political leadership of the day( authors time) being more decisive we would have not missed the opportunity to build the cryogenic engine early, as even the author rues of the lost opportunity -lost decade, and even after negotiating the deal to build cryogenic engine, being not part of MTCR(Missile Technology Control Regime) we were not able to get various parts and technology transfers, only now we are in the club of MTCR.
Also, during the early days, there was too much dependence on one persona, Dr.Vikram sarabhai, although, he did not dissapoint, but after his demise, the organization indeed fell his absence.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS: RAMABHADRAN ARAVAMUDAN, is an award winning senior scientist, served as director of Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sri Harikota and of the ISRO satellite centre , Bengaluru.
GITA ARAVAMUDAN is a veteran journalist and author.
PUBLISHER: HARPER COLLINS INDIA.