Signposting the highway to self-sufficiency in House and Ocean expertise

From House to Sea: My ISRO Journey and Past. Abraham E Muthunayagam. Harper Collins. Rs 799. Pages 464.

Earlier than the Indian House Analysis Organisation (ISRO), there was the Indian Nationwide Committee for House Analysis (INCOSPAR), the cross-over physique that Dr Vikram Sarabhai headed as he went about placing India on the map of House Analysis.

In 1964, whereas pursuing a mechanical engineering doctorate at Purdue College, Indiana, US, a younger scholar from India, Abraham E. Muthunayagam, noticed an commercial within the Indian embassy e-newsletter, inviting purposes for positions in a brand new Indian House Programme.

He utilized — and virtually a 12 months later, was knowledgeable that Dr Sarabhai was in Washington DC and wish to interview him.

That very same day, Dr Sarabhai employed six younger Indian engineers for varied positions at Thumba, on the outskirts of the Kerala capital which was to be the brand new dwelling of India’s House journey.

With a recent PhD beneath his belt, Dr Muthunayagam joined – and remained with what turned ISRO for one more three a long time.

He weaves the historical past of India’s journey into self-sufficiency in rocket propulsion into his personal life. For many of his profession within the House programme, he specialised in liquid propulsion.

His Wikipedia entry calls him the ‘Father of Propulsion Technology’ in India — and after studying the primary 250 odd pages, one can perceive why.

Throughout his tenure as Director, liquid propulsion programs fuelled most rockets together with the SLV3 programme.

After the tragic demise of Sarabhai in 1971, ISRO slipped easily into the Satish Dhawan period. Brahm Prakash was introduced over from Atomic Power by Dhawan to consolidate all House programmes at Thumba beneath VSSC – the Vikram Sarabhai House Centre.

By 1980 liquid propulsion emerged as the highest expertise for propulsion and Muthunayagam in his function as group director for propulsion was requested by Dhawan to move a brand new mission for liquid propulsion.

There have been three sub teams.

The one referring to the Vikas liquid engine (which was to be the workhorse of ISRO launch autos for a few years and) was headed by S. Nambinarayan – a reputation within the information lately once more after the discharge of the movie: “Rocketry: The Nambi Impact”, which tells the story of his personal years with ISRO.

The infamous espionage case foisted on him within the early Nineteen Nineties, and its aftermath. The guide devotes just some paragraphs to the affair.

However, Muthunayagam implies that the then management of ISRO was remiss in leaving Nambi and his colleague D.Sasikumar to the mercies of regulation enforcement companies with their very own agenda, slightly than clearing their names with a easy assertion.

Polar satellite tv for pc launch autos or PSLV harnesses strong propellent-based rocket motors and Muthunayagam paperwork the event of strong motor expertise, dovetailing it into his private contributions.

By all these years, the holy grail of propulsion programs remained cryogenics – using rocket propellants at extraordinarily low temperatures through the use of a mix of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen which stay in a liquid state at temperatures of 183 levels Celsius beneath zero and 253 levels C beneath zero respectively.

India tried all means to accumulate this expertise within the Eighties and 90s however needed to deal with the closed membership of countries which possessed this information – and with the power of the US to throttle the switch of such expertise even by adversary nations just like the USSR by invoking the Missile Expertise Management Regime or MTCR.

The guide chronicles the techno-political tussles to achieve mastery in cryogenics expertise – a tussle that left its mark in private rivalries involving Muthunayagam and the individuals he believes thwarted his rightful declare to management of ISRO – together with U. R. Rao, who turned ISRO Chairman in 1984 and Okay. Kasturirangan who succeeded him in 1994.

When there was no head room for development in ISRO, Muthunayagam left – and paradoxically this launched a brand new chapter within the contributions of this versatile manager-scientist: as Secretary within the Division of Ocean Improvement, a submit he was to occupy for 5 years from 1996.

This was a division that was arrange within the Indira Gandhi years, headed by the charismatic S. Z. Qasim – he personally led the primary Indian expedition to the Antarctic in 1981.

Muthunayagam introduced with him the strengths of planning {and professional} administration which have at all times been a trademark at ISRO.

His stamp was seen in consolidating India’s programmes in Antarctica; the marine residing and nonliving assets programme; the environment friendly administration and deployment of DoD’s analysis fleet and its programmes for coastal and marine administration.

It was a large leap from scanning the sky to scouring the underside — however Muthunayagam’s organisational strengths have been once more in full play and he left the division in 2001, a extra structured, accountable company.

This structured strategy creeps into his guide too. The detailed format of programmes, applied sciences and mission timelines throughout the House and Ocean improvement departments, might not make for clean studying (although the profuse illustrations in color, are a bonus).

However exactly as a result of a lot of this has by no means been documented earlier than, Dr Muthunayagam’s guide will function a priceless useful resource for professionals and an enchanting perception for lay readers, into how India attained maturity within the twin arenas of area and the ocean.

Additionally Learn: Anna Mani, The Pioneering Indian Physicist And Meteorologist

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