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He took space science to such great heights!

I remember the thrill of India launching from the Russian space centre the Aryabhatta, the first Indian spacecraft, in 1975. The space craft was built at the modest sheds of ISRO at Peenya in Bengaluru, under the watch of space scientist U R Rao.

Hailing from Udupi, Ramachandra Rao who breathed his last on 25 July, was among the architects of the highly successful Indian space programme. Rao studied at the MIT and gained experience working on NASA projects. Rao taught at the MIT and the University of Texas before responding to the call to return to India.

Vikram Sarabhai spotted Rao’s talent and entrusted him with the development of the space programme. With the success of Aryabhatta, ISRO designed and launched several satellites that helped in the quantum expansion of communication, remote sensing and other meteorological services. The Geo Stationary Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) technologies were developed with the close involvement and guidance of  Rao.

An internationally acclaimed scientist, Rao received wide recognition. He was awarded Doctor of Science degrees by over 25 foreign universities, published over 350 scientific and technical papers. Awarded Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan, he was the first Indian inducted into the Satellite Hall of Fame, Washington.

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