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The father of Indian space programme
Aug 12, 2021 04:35 PM IST

His name is believed to be honored in every space research institute of India because his legacy remains forever. The beloved Vikram Sarabhai was a man who helped our country step up its level of scientific institutions and technology only to rise up successful.

Born on 12th August 1919

Deeming with ambitions and success.(ISRO/Twitter)
Deeming with ambitions and success.(ISRO/Twitter)

While he did establish the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Sarabhai has been known for establishing many more institutions which are widely appreciated today. All this only summarises the fact that he was a man who loved to help the country become a better place by setting up new things and contributing to the fields he was best known for.

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Born on 12th August 1919, Vikram was lucky to have been a new member of the wealthy Sarabhai family. That being said, he used every opportunity he came across as a step towards helping his nation become big. The Sarabhai family had been known to contribute a lot during the Indian Independence movement being the key industrialists they were. Vikram’s father, Ambarlal Sarabhai had built the Calico Mills and was ardently committed to the Quit India Movement.

It would only be true to say—like father like son. That apart, Vikram started his journey after he had completed his schooling in Gujarat. He went ahead to join the Gujarat college for further studies but later dropped out to attend the University of Cambridge. Though he graduated with a B.A degree in natural sciences, he had to cut his trip short due to the restrictions of World War II.

After his return, Vikram went ahead to work under the supervision of CV Raman to pursue a doctorate by preparing a thesis on Cosmic Ray Investigations in Tropical Latitudes. It was published in 1947, the same year he established the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad.

Famous by the name “cradle of space sciences”, the PRL was an institute made to help him carry his research on cosmic rays further. Today, it stands as one of the leading research centers for space and allied sciences. Soon enough, Vikram started laying down the foundation stone of many institutions and academies.

Despite studying and contributing a lot in the field of science, his interests seemed to vary from sports to statistics and even connoisseur arts. Vikram also headed his own family business while he laid out plans for other industries like the Ahmedabad Textile Industry’s Research Association. Acknowledging the need for management studies in India, he helped set up the model for IIM Ahemdabad in 1962 that was inspired by the Harvard Business School.

Some other projects that were established and set up by him include the Operations Research Group (ORG), the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts (along with his wife), the Nehru Foundation for Development in Ahmedabad, the Fast Breeder Test Reactor in Kalpakkam, the Electronics Corporation of India Limited in Hyderabad, and the Uranium Corporation of India Limited in Jaduguda, Jharkhand.

One of Vikram Sarabhai's most essential projects however was the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) which got its identity in the year 1969.

Russia's Sputnik satellite launch encouraged many countries to shift their focus on space sciences. In India, a group of scientist, researchers and peers, including Sarabhai decided on writing a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru to start a space program that would be named as Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR).

Vikram worked along with Bhabha and set up India's first rocket station in Thumba where the country's first sounding rocket was launched in 1963. Post this event, INCOSPAR was renamed ISRO. After everything that he had contributed, Sarabhai never stopped making space accessible for India and its future. He would pay repeated visits to NASA and keep working towards new things.

In 1966, he was given the Padma Bhushan award. However, on 30th September 1971, Vikram Sarabhai talked his last few words while on a call with Abdul Kalam. An hour later, he passed away due to a cardiac arrest.

While he died at the age of 52, he left behind an eternal legacy. A president, vice president, and chairperson— these were all the posts of one great man, in numerous big institutions. Another interesting and a rather cool thing he managed to achieve through his consistent efforts was leaving a mark in the outside space, quite literally.

In 1973, the International Astronomical Union decided on honoring the late Indian physicist and astronomer by officially christening one of the moon's craters (Mare Serenitatis) as Sarabhai crater.


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