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Isro completes 50 years, phase-II to focus on future problems

BENGALURU: From the Satellite Telecommunication Experiments Project (STEP) that took the first televisions to Indian villages much before India officially had TVs to real-time advisories being sent to fishermen every day, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has led India’s development from the adolescence of independence to present-day advancements.
And, as the space agency—known to work quietly without much fuss—prepares for another eventful year having successfully launched its second mission to Moon, it has achieved another major milestone.

Father of Indian Space Programme, Vikram Sarabhai, APJ Abdul Kalam (to Sarabhai’s left) explaining as G Madhavan Nair (fomer Isro chief), C R Satya and HGS Murthy look on
August 15, India’s 72nd independence day also marks the Golden Jubilee year for Isro, which was founded on this day in 1969, although the space programme per se had kicked off by the mid-1950s. The year also marks the centenary year of Vikram Sarabhai, the father of Indian space programme.

Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE), pioneered by Isro. Till date it remains one of the largest such experiment by any country
When India’s space programme was first conceived, it had a clear priority that space science must first help its citizens, which is why the focus was on Earth observation and communication.

Vikram Sarabhai and APJ Abdul Kalam in conversation
Vikram Sarabhai had once famously said, “We have no fantasies of landing people on the Moon or studying other planets.” This was not lack of ambition as much as it was a result of a different vision: Make India self-reliant using space technology.
And today, the space agency’s chief, K Sivan, says: “Sarabhai’s initial vision that space science and technology must be used for the benefit of the common man has been the guiding force for Isro. And, all our programmes were centred around this vision, which led to several applications. Now that we are meeting all those demands, we are on the path of planting new seeds, benefits of which will be reaped in the future.”

Aravamudan and APJ Abdul Kalam at the Thumba Station in Thiruvananthapuramm, Kerala
He says that while continuing programmes that benefit the common man, Isro is now looking at exploring space to find solutions for present-day and future problems and that learnings from current missions will be solutions for future problems.
“While all these years were phase one of Isro, now we are in phase two. That said, we still have the common man as our main focus, just like Sarabhai. Now, the problems of the common man have changed and they will change further. The problems of the future will be water and energy scarcity, and so on, and with our current explorations, we hope to find solutions for such problems.”

Pic of the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE), pioneered by Isro. Till date it remains one of the largest such experiment by any country
Another senior scientist, while claiming that Isro is still committed to meeting the growing demands of the common man, whether it is in the form of communication satellite or remote sensing and Earth observation, said that huge strides have been made by the space agency in the last 50 years.
Isro, which once depended heavily on foreign help to build and launch its satellites, today helps other countries launch their satellites, and is among the favourite agencies for many countries, indicating its growth in the field.

India’s first own satellite Aryabhata
Sample this: In the past three years, Isro has launched a total of 239 commercial satellites helping Isro’s commercial arm, Antrix Corporation, garner a revenue of Rs 6,289 crore.

Today, it is able to rub shoulders with the best in the business, and one example is the Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar (Nisar) project, in which, Isro is an equal partner with Nasa and not an agency that is seeking the big brother’s help.
Also in the future is projects with Japan to explore Moon, another joint project with Nasa for Mars exploration, besides Isro own vision to explore Venus and objects beyond the solar system.

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