The story of the Indian space programme is closely entwined with the story of Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai.
A slim commemorative volume published by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) offers, through a clutch of black-and-white photographs, valuable glimpses into the life and times of the remarkable man and the evolution of the ISRO. Dr. Vikram A. Sarabhai (1919-1971) has been published to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space programme.
It tells us that on 12th August, 1919, Vikram was born with (a) large head and big ears, and that Rabindranath Tagore who intently looked at the physiognomy and expression and shape of the head quietly remarked to the parents that he would become a celebrity.
Spotlight on capital
There are several photographs in the volume that would be of interest to the people of Thiruvananthapuram especially, the city that was chosen to be the birthplace of the Indian space programme.
In one, Sarabhai is seen at the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS), from where a two-stage American Nike-Apache sounding rocket rose to the skies on November 21, 1963.
It marked the official birth of Indias space programme. Another shows him with a young A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Y.J. Rao at the Space Science and Technology Centre (SSTC) established in Thumba.
The book features a number of photographs of Sarabhai and senior scientists with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during her visit to the TERLS for its dedication to the United Nations.
Thiruvananthapuram was also the place where Sarabhai breathed his last.
The volume has a photograph of him with Union Railway Minister Hanumanthaiah at the foundation stone laying for the Thumba railway station on December 28, 1971.
Two days later, Sarabhai died at Kovalam, aged 52.
The book has quite a few photographs of Sarabhais early years and his married life with celebrated danseuse Mrinalini, daughter of well-known lawyer Swaminathan, whom he married in 1942.
Of Indias aspirations in space, Sarabhai had famously said: We are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally and in the comity of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of the man and society.