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ISRO: A Personal History Paperback – 14 Feb 2017
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About the Author
Ramabhadran Aravamudan is an award-winning senior scientist who served as the director of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota and of the ISRO Satellite Centre, Bengaluru. Gita Aravamudan is a veteran journalist and author.
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The story starts when Aravamudan joins Vikram Sarabhai’s team that plans to launch rockets. What a journey from then on!
Aravamudan trains with NASA for 2 months along with Abdul Kalam, and then heads to the tranquil Thumba in Kerala for initiating the sounding rockets programme. He, along with Kalam and a few others, under monthly supervision by Vikram Sarabhai builds the TERLS in Kerala.
Aravamudan details the different stages of development of ISRO, the nail biting moments during early rocket launches, the leadership of Sarabhai, Satish Dhawan and Kalam and the trials and tribulations of rocket programmes run by a newly independent country.
Aravamudan also details the sabotages staged by trade unions and the delays caused by the violent workers who were affiliated with the unions.
The sections on the workaholic Vikram Sarabhai who worked until he dropped dead, the sequence of events leading up to the SLV launch ( Kalam was responsible for this), the sequential upgrades to the SLV Programme – all these are so tightly narrated without any letup that you feel the tension building up in you when you read them.
What is remarkable is that, page after page, you see the young engineers trying to solve a complex problem with what ever limited resources they had. Without sophisticated technical assistance from abroad, with limited governmental budgetary support, what has been achieved is indeed remarkable.
If you need to know about what the US did to scuttle the cryogenic engine technology development in India and how the engineers from ISRO overcame the hurdles, then this book is for you. You get to know about the contributions of often familiar names : Kasturi Rangan, U.R.Rao, Madhavan Nair, Abdul Kalam, Brahm Prakash, Satish Dhawan and a whole list of luminaries from ISRO.
In 1962 a batch of 5 Indian engineers land in NASA for a 2 month training, return to India and help set up the ISRO and make the organization what it is today. In the same year, a team from Pakistan also visits NASA. Rest is history.
A veritable read that no Indian should miss.
Many struggles, many failures, few successes in the beginning but you scientists didn't gave up. Author narrated his experience with Dr vikram sarabhai and Dr kalam.
1. Other than Vikram Sarabhai, the portraits of the other key people behind ISRO are too brief
2. While the book ends with the GSLV and a few pages about the Moon and Mars missions, some more information about the GSLV Mk-III which will make India completely self reliant for satellite launches would have been welcome.
3. The idea of frugal engineering comes up in the book, but it is not explored in detail. While this is evident in the early years of ISRO (rocket cones being pushed along on bicycles et al), it would have been interesting to know how this was maintained in later years when things became institutionalized and much more sophisticated.
All in all, a very good read for anyone interested in the fascinating story behind India's space program.
The book has charming vignettes of personalities who are so well known today, particularly our universally beloved late president, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. My favourite is the photograph of the author in his vest accompanied by a future president, Kalam, putting something right. From such modest beginnings to the Mars mission, what a journey it has been.
The author and his wife are to be complimented for bringing to us this fascinating story.
It is a must read and if not the whole book, excerpts should form a part of our text books.
'If you have a clear vision and a determined goal, you can turn any stone in your way'. A lesson I learned from it.
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Aravamudan takes us into a wonderful and amazing journey of the rollercoaster ride called ISRO.Read more