Reach for the stars: the evolution of India's rocket programme
Few space programmes anywhere in the world would have had such a modest beginning: one van and a small fleet of precious bicycles used, besides other things, for ferrying parts of sounding rocketsırockets that glean information on the upper atmosphereıto the launch site. And for use as an office and laboratory was the St Mary Magdalene Church at Thumba, the small fishing village in Kerala where it all started. What the programme lacked in facilities, however, was more than made up for by the dedication of the small band of people who worked there, and their calibre. Leading this team was Vikram Sarabhai, one of the great visionaries of modern India. A great motivator of people, he was able to inspire his talented team to put India firmly on the path to space exploration. Then and now, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has continued to draw gifted people of the stature of Satish Dhawan, Brahm Prakash, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and U.R. Rao, to list only a few. Reach for the Stars: The Evolution of Indiaıs Rocket Programme relates, for the first time, how India developed its satellite launch capability. It has been a challenging journey with its share of success, failure and heartbreak, and one rendered all the more difficult as most of the technology had to be developed indigenously, ranging from the rocket engines themselves to precision guidance systems. Today India is able to design and build its own Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLV) to launch remote sensing satellites used in weather forecasting, resource mapping and crop yield estimatesıfunctions crucial to putting the country on the fast track to development. In fact, the Indian remote sensing satellites form the largest constellation of such satellites in space. From sounding rockets to PSLVs has been a huge technological jump, and in this dramatic and amazing story author Gopal Raj tells how the transition was made, and the reasoning behind some of ISROıs most difficult choices in the course of thirty-eight years. It is specially apt that the book comes when the Indian rocket programme is poised at the edge of a new phase of growth, when cryogenic technology will give India the capability to launch its own communication satellites. Based on first-hand accounts and extensive research, this is the marvellous story of a group of people who, as with their gravity-defying rockets, could rise above their limitations to accomplish the impossible.
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