Dr.Vikram Sarabhai: A Man Who Elevated India to Space

Dr.Vikram Sarabhai: A Man Who Elevated India to Space

Today, the nation is celebrating the centenary of the famously acclaimed 'Father of Indian space Program', Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, a physicist, innovator, and industrialist. He found Physical Research Laboratory known as the cradle of space science in India in 1947. But he is celebrated as the father of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). His mysterious death on 30th December 1971 was a catastrophe for the country. Let us go back and look at his journey that has made India the global leader of Space.

Early Life & Education

Born on 12th August 1919 in Ahmadabad, Gujarat, into a well renowned Sarabhai Family, who owned several textile mills, Dr.Vikram was very interested in science since his childhood. Post the completion of his intermediate in Gujarat, he flew to England to pursue his higher studies. In 1940, he took up admission for Tripos in Natural Science at Cambridge University. Dr.Vikram’s first scientific paper ‘Time Distribution of Cosmic Rays’ was published in 1942. Further in 1945, he continued his research on cosmic rays and obtained his PhD degree for his thesis submitted on ‘Cosmic Ray Investigations in Tropical Latitudes’.

Career & Achievements

Dr.Vikram has held several positions such as President of Physics section at Indian Science Congress in 1962, President of General Conference at I.A.E.A, Vienna in 1970, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission during 1966 –1971, he served as Vice President of fourth UN Conference on ‘Peaceful uses of Atomic Energy’ in 1971, and he was the Chairman & Founder of Space Application Centre, which was later renamed as ISRO.

Dr.Vikram was a great institution builder; he has either established or helped in establishing numerous institutes among varied fields. Post the independence, in 1947 he established Indian Institute of Management at Ahmadabad. Apart from this, Community Science Centre in Ahmedabad, Dr.Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) at Thiruvananthapuram, Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad, Faster Breeder Tech Reactor (FBTR) Kalpakkam, Varaiable Energy Cyclotron Project in Calcutta, Electronic Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) in Hyderabad, Uranium Corporation of India Limited in Bihar and Darpan Academy for performing Art in Ahmedabad were some of the institutes established by Dr.Vikram. He had initiated a project for the fabrication and launch of an Indian satellite, resultantly, India’s first satellite Aryabhata was launched on 19th April 1975, from Kapustin Yar, a Russian launch & development site.

“There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation, to us, there is no ambiguity of purpose… We must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society,” said Dr.Vikram at the launch of Russia’s Sputnik satellite.

Earlier this summer, ISRO launched Chandrayaan-2, which is expecting a soft landing on 7th September of this year. Its lander is been named after Dr.Vikram Sarabhai as a part of his centenary celebration. Lander ‘Vikram’ is designed in such a way to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 Earth days, and it has the capacity to communicate constantly with the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) in Byalalu near Bangalore in Karnataka, as well as with the orbiter and rover.


For this vast and eminent contribution to the field of space, Dr.Vikram was awarded ‘Padma Bhushan’ in 1966, and was honored with ‘Padma Vibhushan’ (posthumously) in 1972, which is third and second highest civilian awards respectively.

Dr.Vikram breathed his last breathe on 30th December 1971, at Halcyon Castle, Thiruvananthapuram. He was found dead in his hotel room, where he had discussion with other scientist the previous day. He was not detected with any illness, but reports claim his death as a heart attack. Hence Dr.Vikram’s death still remains a mystery yet to be solved.  


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