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India’s leap into the space age: Aiming higher without foreign assistance

by Mohan Sundara Rajan

The importance given to mastering the fundamentals impressed the doyen of science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke, who had envisaged the use of the geosynchronous orbit in 1945 (since named the Clarke Orbit). In a television interview to me in 1972, he was sure that India would soon take off into the Space Age, as its scientists were starting from the basics needed for the effort. In retrospect, I am inclined to view this as the other prophecy of Arthur Clarke, which has come true. He was glad to hear of the work at the Satellite Station at Ahmedabad (1967), the plan to make indigenous propellant for the rockets in Thumba, and the progress made in sounding rockets— all under the leadership of Sarabhai. He presented me his book Voices from the Sky, while accepting my Wonders of Space and hoped communication links with satellites would soon be an everyday affair.

Before the SLV-3 was on the launching pad, tragedy struck. Sarabhi died of a heart attack in 1971.The....

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