UPSC science and technology: Vikram Sarabhai and India
Baljit Dhaka
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UPSC science and technology: Vikram Sarabhai and India

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UPSC science and technology: Vikram Sarabhai and India’s Space Mission Frontier IAS Current Affairs

Who was Vikram Sarabhai?

  • Dr. Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai (12 August 1919 – 30 December 1971) was an Indian physicist and astronomer, hailed as the father of the Indian space program.
  • He was the son of Ambalal Sarabhai, a noted industrialist, and supporter of Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian Independence Movement.
  • He is a recipient of Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan (posthumously).

What is his contribution to science in India?

  • At the age of 28, he set up a Physics Research laboratory in Ahmedabad in 1947 and in 1961 co-founded IIM, Ahmedabad.
  • He established the Fast Breeder Test Reactor, in Kalpakkam and Variable Energy Cyclotron Project, in Chennai.
  • He also founded Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. and Uranium Corporation of India Ltd.


Why is he regarded as the father of our space program?

  • Owing to his urging, the government initiated the Indian space program and established INCOSPAR under DAE in 1962.
  • He set up the first rocket launching station in India, at Thumba.
  • As a result of his dialogue with NASA in 1966, SITE was launched during July 1975-76.
  • He started a project for the fabrication and launch of an Indian Satellite.
  • St. Mary Magdelene Church in Thumba. It served as the main office for scientists in the early stages of the Indian space program.

(Picture Credits: ISRO)

How did ISRO come into being?

  • INCOSPAR grew with time and became ISRO in 1969, but remained under DAE.
  • In 1972, the government of India set up the Space Commission and the Department of Space, thus bringing ISRO under DOS.
  • Dr. Vikram Sarabhai acted as its first chairman.
  • The year 2019 was its golden jubilee.

How did ISRO transform lives?

  • ISRO wanted to help its citizens first, which is why it focused on Earth observation and communication initially.
  • On January 26, 1967, it premiered Krishi Darshan to spread agricultural information.
  • Much before India officially had TVs, ISRO took the first televisions to Indian villages through SITE and STEP.
  • It also sent real-time advisories to fishermen every day.

What have been its major achievements so far?

  • In 1975, it launched its first satellite Aryabhatta from USSR.
  • In 1980, it created its first launch vehicle SLV-3 and put satellite Rohini in orbit.
  • In 1982, it launched India’s National Satellite System, which revolutionized TV and radio broadcasting.
  • In 1984, Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma became the first Indian to go in space.
  • In 1993, it developed PSLV, which was later used for historical launches like Chandrayaan-1, Mangalyaan, etc.
  • In 2001, it launched its first GSLV (GSLV-D1).
  • In 2008, it sent Chandrayaan-1 to the moon, making India the fourth country to achieve this feat. It discovered lunar water.
  • In 2013, it launched Mangalyaan, making India the first nation to succeed on its maiden attempt to Mars, as well as the first space agency in Asia to reach Mars orbit.
  • In 2017, it launched 104 satellites in a single rocket (PSLV-C37), a world record.
  • In 2019, it successfully tested India’s first Anti-satellite missile and also launched Chandrayaan-2.

What are its plans?

  • Till now, India has not ventured into a manned space mission. This is about to change with mission Gaganyaan, for which it even developed a half-humanoid ‘Vyommitra’.
  • It also plans to launch Aditya-L1, a spacecraft mission to study the sun, by the end of 2020.
  • Developing a reusable launch vehicle and having its own space station are two other major ambitious missions of ISRO.

With more focus on space probes, have ISRO deviated from its primary objective of serving the common man, as envisaged by Dr. Sarabhai?

  • According to ISRO’s chief Dr. K. Sivan, ISRO is on the path of planting new seeds, whose benefits can be reaped in future.
  • As per him, the problems of the common man in the future will be water and energy scarcity. ISRO plans to find its solutions with its explorations.