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Former ISRO chairman UR Rao, the man behind India’s 1st satellite Aryabhatta, dies at 85

UR Rao is credited for contributions to the development of space technology in India and its extensive application to communications and remote sensing of natural resources.

india Updated: Jul 24, 2017 15:28 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
PTI, Bengaluru
U R Rao,UR Rao,UR Rao ISRO
UR Rao died of age-related ailments at his home in Bengaluru on July 24.(ANI File Photo)

Eminent space scientist and former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman Udupi Ramachandra Rao passed away here in the wee hours of Monday due to age-related ailments.

He was 85.

“Rao breathed his last during the early hours, around 3am today,” ISRO Public Relations director Deviprasad Karnik told PTI.

Modi tweeted that was saddened by the demise of Rao. “His remarkable contribution to India’s space programme will never be forgotten.”

He was suffering from age related ailments and breathed his last at his residence in the city. Rao is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter, ISRO officials said.

Born in Adamaru area of Karnataka’s Udupi district, Rao was involved in all ISRO missions till date in one capacity or the other. He is credited for contributions to the development of space technology in India and its extensive application to communications and remote sensing of natural resources.

Speaking to HT, PS Goel, former associate director of the Isro Satellite Centre who had worked with Rao since the 1970s, said it was a great loss to the space research community. “Apart from his achievements as a scientist he was also a great builder of institutions,” Goel said.

Goel said, unlike others Rao had actively created a second-rung of scientists. “He was a visionary who created so many leaders, which is unlike a majority of the scientists,” Goel added.

He was serving as the chairman of the governing council of the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad and the chancellor of the Indian institute of science and technology in Thiruvananthapuram.

Rao served as the chairman of ISRO for 10 years from 1984-1994. The eminent scientist, who was conferred a Padma Vibhushan earlier this year, was part of the Aryabhatta and Mars Orbiter Missions.

After taking charge as chairman of the space commission and secretary, department of space in 1984, he accelerated the development of rocket technology which led to the successful launch of ASLV rocket and the operational PSLV launch vehicle, which can launch 2.0 ton class of satellites into polar orbit, his profile on the space agency’s website reads.

He also initiated the development of the Geo Stationary Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and the development of cryogenic technology in 1991.

Rao was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1976.

He has published over 350 scientific and technical papers covering cosmic rays, interplanetary physics, high energy astronomy, space applications, satellite and rocket technology and authored many books.

Rao also became the first Indian space scientist to be inducted into the prestigious ‘Satellite Hall of Fame’ in Washington DC on March 19, 2013, and the ‘IAF Hall of Fame’ in Mexico’s Guadalajara.

Meanwhile, Siddarmaiah, who visited Rao’s residence on Monday, tweeted: “India will be long grateful for his contributions in building our space [programme]. Isro and the scientific community have lost a tall leader today.”

With PTI inputs

First Published: Jul 24, 2017 08:07 IST