India Enters The Space Age

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On 21st November 1963, a sounding rocket blasted off from the Thumba fishing village in Kerala. That moment, witnessed by scientists from the US, Soviet Union and France, was a huge milestone in Modern India, as it was the moment India entered the spaceage.

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai | Wikimedia Commons
Dr. Vikram Sarabhai | Wikimedia Commons

While ColdWar rivals, the Soviet Union and the US, had entered the space age due to mutual rivalry, India wanted space technology to benefit common folk and contribute to the country’s progress. Dr Vikram Sarabhai was at the helm of this space mission.

Dr Sarabhai wanted India to use weather satellites to track tsunami and flood patterns and broadcast them to villages via television. He also wanted to use satellite technology to educate villagers about farming, hygiene and family planning.

Arcas Rocket loaded into launch tube at Thumba | Wikimedia Commons
Arcas Rocket loaded into launch tube at Thumba | Wikimedia Commons

In 1962, the government set up the Indian National Committee for Space Research or INCOSPAR with Dr Sarabhai as its chairperson. INCOSPAR later evolved into ISRO or the Indian Space Research Organisation in 1969.

APJ Abdul Kalam with Dr. Sarabhai | ISRO
APJ Abdul Kalam with Dr. Sarabhai | ISRO

One of INCOSPAR’s earliest tasks was to establish a launch pad station for rockets. To achieve this, a bunch of young Indian engineers were sent to NASA for training. This group included Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, India’s future President.

Nike Apache Rocket Launch from Thumba | Wikimedia Commons
Nike Apache Rocket Launch from Thumba | Wikimedia Commons

While the Nike-Apache, India’s first rocket, was an American rocket, just four years later India launched its first indigenous sounding rocket, on 20th November 1967. It was named Rohini 75.

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