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Isro @ 50: India’s space agency now has a new mission

In 50 years since it was founded, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has come a long way by overcoming technological hurdles and achieving several milestones. From launching sounding rockets carrying a payload of just 30-70kg to 150km altitude from a churchturned-launch centre at Thumba in Kerala’s Trivandrum (now Thiruvananthapuram) in early 1960s, Isro is now launching 4,000kg payload to the geostationary orbit at 36,000km altitude.

The agency’s giant leap in space technology has been phenomenal whether it is the development of cryogenic engine for powering its heavypayload launcher or making India’s heaviest satellite Gsat-11 weighing over five tonnes.

When Isro was set up on August 15, 1969, the country didn’t have space infrastructure nor expertise to launch big rockets. But now the agency has an array of rockets in its arsenal. Its PSLV can not only lift over a hundred satellites in one attempt, but can also put satellites in different orbits in a single mission. Likewise, its GSLV rocket is capable of launching bulky satellites to the geo orbit and is also being used to launch interplanetary missions like Chandrayaan-2.

File photo: Isro scientists Aravamudan & APJ Abdul Kalam fixing a sounding rocket at Thumba, Kerala, in early 1960s

On the golden jubilee year of Isro, its chairman K Sivan told TOI, “In the last 50 years, Isro’s key mission was to develop space technologies that would benefit the common man. We have therefore established a big space infrastructure, space transport system and various space applications to meet the requirement of the people and fulfil the vision of the father of Indian space programme Vikram Sarabhai.”

Sivan said, “We are now looking to achieve the second mission: To develop technologies required for future. The launch of interplanetary missions like Mars Orbiter Mission and Chandrayaan-1 and -2 missions are in that direction. We are sowing the seeds of future technologies so that our next generation will reap their benefits 50 years from now. This is because resources on Earth are fast depleting. We may have to depend on other celestial bodies in future to fufil our basic needs. To find a way to reach these planets, we are launching interplanetary missions.”

Sivan said human spaceflight programme (Gagayaan) will be Isro’s priority. Thereafter Aditya (sun), Venus and space science missions are lined up. “After Gaganyaan, we will work on setting up India’s own space station,” he said. “To carry heavier payload (over 4 tonnes) for interplanetary missions, Isro is working on increasing the lifting capability of GSLV-MkIII and developing a heavy lift launch vehicle.”

Source: Economic Times