Just like every 15th February, I half-expected to wake up to a stream of Facebook updates on what my friends did on the most pretentious of ‘festivals’ – Valentine’s Day, a day on which even the most bickering of couples posted selfies stamped with hues of red. Don’t judge me for my not-so-rosy reaction to this Archies’ brainchild. I’m not a moral vigilante from Ram Sena but all the over-the-top, once-in-a-year, open-to-public adulation seems to me like a mockery of what love really means.
However, coming back to my Facebook updates, I was rather surprised this 15th of February. Though there were still a lot of red blurs on my feed, the news which was trending today was the launch of 104 nano-satellites by Indian Space Research Organization. Well, some might argue saying this was an ‘over the top adulation’ too considering this is rather a smaller medal for ISRO, who are already planning to launch a mission to Venus in 2012. But the occasion was grand enough to make me search more about ISRO’s modest beginnings.
Though I remembered bits of it from Dr. Kalam’s book Ignited Minds, it was today’s Needull, a 2002 short piece from The Hindu, which took me back to the early days at the fishing hamlet of Thumba, when rocket parts were carried on bicycles and satellites were transported on bullock carts, when a bishop’s sleeping quarter was where space trajectories were finalized, when cowsheds were converted to laboratories to nurture our space ambitions. It was in these unassuming settings that India staged its first launch—that of a Nike-Apache rocket supplied by NASA. This is the story of the first-ever rocket launch by Indian space scientists, the first milestone in modern India’s space odyssey.