Dr. Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai

  • Category
    Miscellaneous
  • Published
    4th Nov, 2019

Issue

Context

Nation celebrated Vikram Sarabhai's, the father of the Indian Space Programme, 100th birthday on 12 August 2019. He was an Indian physicist and industrialist who initiated space research and helped develop nuclear power in India.

Background

  • Vikram Sarabhai was an award-winning physicist, industrialist and innovator.
  • Considered the Father of the Indian space programme, Sarabhai is also credited with establishing Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro).
  • Born to wealthy industrialists in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat on August 12, 1919, Vikram Sarabhai earned his doctorate from Cambridge University.
  • During his time at Cambridge, he studied cosmic rays and published many research papers on it.
  • After returning to India, he founded the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad on November 11, 1947, when he was 28 years old.
  • After PRL, Sarabhai set up the Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad, and guided the establishment of Isro.

Most important institutions founded by Vikram Sarabhai

  • Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad
  • Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad
  • Community Science Centre, Ahmedabad
  • Darpan Academy for Performing Arts, Ahmedabad (along with his wife)
  • Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram
  • Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad (formed by merging six institutions established by Sarabhai)
  • Faster Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR), Kalpakkam
  • Variable Energy Cyclotron Project, Calcutta
  • Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), Hyderabad
  • Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), Jaduguda, Bihar

Analysis

Major contributions of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai in making India space-forward

  • Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
    • The establishment of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was one of his greatest achievements.
    • He successfully convinced the government of the importance of a space programme for a developing country like India after the Russian Sputnik launch.
    • He started the Indian National Committee for Space Research in 1962, which later became the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • First rocket launching station
    • Homi Jehangir Bhabha, widely regarded as the father of India's nuclear science program, supported Dr. Sarabhai in setting up the first rocket launching station in India.
    • This center was established at Thumba near Thiruvananthapuram on the coast of the Arabian Sea, primarily because of its proximity to the equator.
    • The first flight was a sodium vapour payload and was launched on 21 November 1963.
  • Beginning of satellite broadcasting
    • Vikram Sarabhai believed firmly in the need for communication and education, especially of those living in rural areas, whom he wanted to reach out to via satellites.
    • In 1966, he requested NASA to design an experimental satellite communication project, known as Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE).
    • The programme aimed to make television and other informational programmes available to rural India. It also helped India gain technical knowledge and experience in the field of satellite communications.
    • The programme was quite a success as it covered over 2,400 villages in 20 districts. The project was also supported by international committees like UNESCO, UNICEF, ITU, and UNDP, and also led to the birth of All India Radio (AIR).
    • It led to the building of India’s first artificial satellite orbiting the earth. Launched in July 1975, the Aryabhata was launched four years after the death of Sarabhai on the Kapustin Yar, a Russian rocket

Other contributions

  • He was the founding director of Indian institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. In 1961, with the help of businessman Kasturbhai Lalbhai he set up an institute of learning.
  • He played a crucial role in establishing the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT University) in Ahmedabad in 1962. University offers courses for undergraduate and postgraduate programs in subjects like architecture, planning and technology.
  • He established the Nehru Foundation for Development in 1965 which focus on the current problems of society and individual development.
  • Sarabhai was very interested in science education and founded a Community Science Centre at Ahmedabad in 1966. Today, the Centre is called the Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre. It was aimed to promote science and mathematics education among students and public.
  • Besides ISRO, Sarabhai also led the Atomic Energy Commission between 1966 and 1971 as its Chairman.
  • Sarabhai married world-renowned classical dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai in 1942. The classical dancer and innovator-scientists together established the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts in Ahmedabad.

Vikram Sarabhai's death

Sarabhai passed away on December 30, 1971, at the age of 52. He died in a hotel room in Kerala after witnessing the launch of a Russian rocket and laying the foundation stone of the Thumba railway station earlier the same day.

Vikram Sarabhai’s Awards and Honours

For his exemplary work in the field of science, he received Padma Bhushan in 1966 and the Padma Vibhushan awarded posthumously in 1972, the India's most honourable awards.

Vikram Sarabhai's legacy

  • ISRO announced Vikram Sarabhai Award - To pay homage to the father of India's Space program, ISRO has announced an award in the name of Vikram Sarabhai on his 100th birthday. The Vikram Sarabhai Journalism award in Space Science Technology and Research will be given to those journalists who have contributed to the fields of space science, applications and research.
  • On July 22, 2019, ISRO launched Chandrayaan-2, first lander-rover module from India to travel and land on the moon and study it. It has one of its payloads named after him, the Vikram Lander.
  • A crater on the moon was named in his honour in 1973 by the International Astronomical Union in Sydney, Australia.
  • The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, (VSSC), which is Isro's lead facility for launch vehicle development located in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), is named in his memory.
  • Indian Postal department released a commemorative postal stamp on his first death anniversary (30 December 1972)
  • Space Science Day is observed in India every year on 12 August
  • He was a recipient of the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize

Conclusion

Therefore, we can say that the contributions made by Dr. Vikram Sarabhai are extraordinary in the field of space science. He established several institutions and showed the path of technology to our country. His dedication and hard work can’t be forgettable.

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