A Journey through the World of Space and Beyond

Today was an afternoon to cherish. There are some events that happen and you forget when time goes on but there are some events that happen and sticks to your mind, inspires you and makes you wonder and motivated to ask yourself what I want, what have I done and what I want to do for the country! I am sure when Padma Vibhushan Dr. K. Kasturirangan’s inspiring talk for Plinth  2016 @ LNMIIT came to an end, students and even some faculties like me present there would have felt the same and will live with that kind of motivation and inspiration to do something good for the country.

Basically his talk was on the ISRO’s mission from 1970’s to 2015, his Chairman’s period from 1994 to 2003, his MP of Rajya Sabha from 2003 to 2009 and his present stay at INAE.

His talk started from his years where he started applying for research fellowships. He was very candid to admit that he did not have a vision or aim like to go for space organisation and think of sending satellites. His main aim was to do research work on Cosmic X-Rays sources in the space. But the events from then on and due to advice and guidance from the great Vikram Sarabhai and Prof. Satish Dhawan’s guidance took him to this stage. This shows that you may not have a specific goal in your life to achieve but if you take the events happening in your life to your advantage and excel in what you are doing you can achieve greater things in the longer run. This is a great lesson to the students.

Then he talked about his first project of putting a balloon in the atmosphere to measure some radiations in the atmosphere. First time when they tried on an early morning at 4am it did not succeed since the electronics behaved bad. But when V. Sarabhai met them and came to know about the failure he encouraged them and motivated them. Then within a week they addressed the issue and succeeded in their mission. When V. Sarabhai met them again and came to know about the success he appreciated the team and advised them that since you failed for the first time you would have now learnt ten times more than what you would have learnt when you would have succeeded in the first time itself. What you got from here – if you are with the right person and work hard then the success is guaranteed. Failures makes you sad at that moment but when you think in the long term it will be a stepping stone for your success.

When Prof. Satish Dhawan was the Chairman of ISRO there was an instance where there was a problem in the camera hosted in a satellite. He said in an internal meeting that the camera seems to be dead but an engineer told him that based on his simulation tests it will be fine after one week. This became a challenge between them to which Prof. Satish Dhawan promised the engineer that if he loses he will give his one month salary to him. To which the engineer, in turn, also challenged saying if he looses he will give his one month salary to him. After one week when the camera was switched on, it started working as expected and Prof. Satish Dhawan took a ₹5 note and signed and gave it to the engineer. Engineer got surprised and asked him only ₹5, you promised one month salary?! Prof. Satish Dhawan said yes in fact this money is five times my salary of ₹1 which I get from ISRO. He added that his actual salary is from IISc, Bangalore! These fun happening brought cheers to people and brought ISRO people together and helped them to succeed.

When Dr. K. Kasturirangan was at helm in ISRO he made the environment such that anybody can question anybody in the technical aspects and he added that this made the projects success percentage to grow. His main achievement which he himself admitted as the first success of GSLV launch was not done without problems. First day of the launch the rocket did not start. But he said that was the first time they had designed an aborting program that will stop the vehicle to stop if some thing goes wrong in the four boosters that surrounds the rocket. When they researched why the rocket did not start they found out one of the booster was working only 85% of its capacity so the abort program rightly stopped the vehicle from launching or else it would have created a mayhem. So even in the failure they learnt that the aborting program is working correctly! This is what is all about in real life – you may fail but take good things from it and move on do not get disgruntled with the failures.

His idea of lunar missions and planetary missions when put forth to the then Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee, he named it Chandrayaan 1. When asked why “1” there, Vajpayee told him that why to restrict to one mission you can have many more missions!

He also talked about his Rajya Sabha days where he played an important role in the Nuclear deal with USA.