Tribute to Dr. Udupi Ramachandra Rao

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Posted By : ScienceIndia Administrator

Dr. U.R.Rao - The man behind 'Aryabhata Satellite"
 
"We were all excited about it. If you are not excited about anything, you will not achieve anything great,"  Prof. Udupi Ramachandra Rao, the celebrated Indian space scientist and the pioneer of  first Indian satellite "Aryabhata" said during a programme at Poornaprajna College in his home town in Udupi in 2015 while talking to the students about the launch of Aryabhata. 

Dr. Udupi Ramachandra Rao, the satellite man, a space scientist and the former chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) passed away recently on July 24, 2017 at his residence leaving a large void in the scientific community. Creating the satellite Aryabhata in the sheds of the ISRO facility at Peenya industrial area and later its successful launch in USSR was one of the happiest moments in his life as he said.

Prof. Rao was born in Admaru village in Udupi district of Karnataka in March 10, 1932. He was born to Lakshminarayana Acharya and Krishnaveni Amma. He got his primary education at Adamaru and his secondary education from Christian High School, Udupi. He obtained his B.Sc from Government Arts and Science College, Anantpur in 1952. He obtained his M.Sc from Banaras Hindu University in 1954 and did his doctoral research work (Ph.D) at Physical Research Laboratory(PRL), Ahmedabad under the guidance of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai. He was awarded the Ph.D degree from Gujarat University based on his work at PRL in 1960. Prof. Rao was the recipient of D.Sc (Hon. Causa) Degree from over 25 universities. He published more than 350 scientific and technical papers in national and international journals of repute.  Some notable books he has authored includes "Physics of the Communication", "Space and Agenda 21 - Caring for the Planet Earth" and "Space Technology for Sustainable Development". 

Prof. Rao started his career as a cosmic ray scientist at PRL, Ahmedabad under the supervision of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai. He  then moved to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA). In one of his collaborative study he tried to establish the continuous nature of the solar wind and its effect on geomagnetism using Mariner 2 observations. He had also worked at University of Texas, Dallas, USA as an Assistant Professor. He then came back to Physical Research Laboratory, India in 1966 as a Professor. His deep involvement in several experiments on a number of pioneer and explorer spacecrafts resulted a fair understanding of the solar cosmic ray phenomena and the electromagnetic state of the interplanetary space. He was convinced that the use of space technology may take an important role for the development of this country. In 1972, he took the responsibility for the establishment of satellite technology in India. Under his guidance, the first Indian satellite "Aryabhata" was launched in 1975 in USSR. More than 18 satellites including Bhaskara, APPLE, Rohini, INSAT-1, INSAT-2, remote sensing satellites IRS-1A and IRS-1B were designed, developed and launched under his able guidance. It could solve various purposes like communication, remote sensing and meteorological services.

Prof. U R Rao was awarded with the third highest civilian award ‘Padma Bhushan’ in 1976 and second highest civilian award ‘Padma Vibhushan’ in 2017. He was the first Indian Space Scientist to be allowed into the Prestigious “Satellite Hall of Fame” at Washington DC, USA in recent past on March 19, 2013. He became the first Indian Scientist to be given the ‘Hall of Fame’ award by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) in March, 2016. 

The distinguished career of Prof. Rao made him elected as "Fellows" of many science academies such as Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), Indian Academy of Sciences, (IAS, Bangalore), Indian National Science Academy(INSA, Delhi), National Academy of Sciences, India (NASI, Ahmedabad), Institute of Electronics and Telecommunications Engineers(IETE) and International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). He was also conferred Fellowship of the World Academy of Arts & Sciences. He was also the Vice President of International Astronautical Federation (IAF) during 1984 to 1992 and continued to be the Chairman of the Committee for Liaison with Developing Countries (CLIODN) since 1986.  He was also chosen and elected as the Chairman of United Nations - Committee On Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN-COPUOS) in June 1997. He was the first chairman of Prasar Bharati, Dept. of Science & Technology. He was elected as the General President of the Indian Science Congress Association for the period 1995-96. It is difficult to summarize his responsibilities and achievements in small space.

Definitely Prof. Rao was a man of work keeping the work above personal feelings. "He always respected competence in people and recognized skill. He was never biased by any personal feelings",  thinks another distinguished scientist and former chairman of ISRO and patron  of Vijnana Bharati, Prof. G. Madhavan Nair. People's President and distinguished scientist Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam had an effective association with Prof. U. R. Rao. While Dr. A.P. J. Abdul Kalam was President, he presented the Life Time Achievement Award constituted by ISRO and Astronautical Society of India (ASI) to Prof. Rao for his outstanding contribution to the organization.

In the last phase of his life he was also curious to see India’s maiden launch to planet Venus in the coming years. His note worthy contribution to Indian Science will inspire our students for many centuries. Science India Portal and Vijnana Bharati (VIBHA) pays its tribute to Prof. U. R. Rao and expects his life will give inspiration to lakhs of students and excite many students to attain such high level of scientific temperament.

by Dr. Jajati Nayak,

Scientist - Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, Kolkata

Mentor - Science India Portal

 

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