Early this morning, former Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Professor Udupi Ramachandra Rao, passed away at his home in Bengaluru, Bangalore, at age 85..
He helmed ISRO from 1984 to 1994, during which the organisation made remarkable progress. During his tenure, ISRO conducted the first launch of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), now seen as one of world’s most reliable and cost effective rockets. This year, the PSLV launched 104 satellites at once, beating Russia’s world record of 37 satellites.
He also initiated the development of ISRO’s medium-lift launcher, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which made headlines this year for its indigenous upper-stage cryogenic engine – something the organisation started working towards under Rao’s leadership.
As Chairman, Rao conceived of Mangalyaan, or Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), India’s first mission to Mars. He was responsible for overseeing the design of the mission, setting the objectives and deciding on the experiments.
Prior to his chairmanship, Rao was Launch Director of India’s first satellite Aryabhata in 1972, which conducted experiments in X-ray astronomy, aeronomics, and solar physics.
Rao won numerous awards throughout his career, such as the Padma Bhushan, which is the third-highest civilian award in the Republic of India. He received international recognition as Vice President of International Astronautical Federation (IAF) from 1984 to 1992, won the Theodore Von Karman Award in 2005 and was subsequently inducted into the halls of fame of the Society of Satellite Professionals International and the IAF.
This morning, Prime Minister Modi expressed his condolences in a Tweet, saying, “Saddened by demise of renowned scientist, Professor UR Rao. His remarkable contribution to India’s space programme will never be forgotten”.