India loses a gem, as eminent space scientist and former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organization, UR Rao breathed his last on 24th of July, 2017. UR Rao was 85.

Udupi Ramachandra Rao was born on the 10th of March 1932 at Adamaru in the Indian state of Karnataka. He died of old age related issues at about 2.30 am. Professor Rao leaves behind a grievous void in the arena of not only Indian but world’s field of study in Space Science and satellite technology .

UR Rao was honored with both the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan in 1976 and 2017 respectively.

Amongst his other uncountable notable feats and awards, the following two stands out the most.

UR Rao is the first Indian to be inducted in the Satellite Hall of Fame as well as that of the International Astronautical Federation.

The Society of Satellite Professionals International inducted UR Rao in the Satellite Hall of Fame in a ceremony on the 19th of March 2013, at Washington. Three years later, on the 15th of May 2016, he was to be inducted in the later- The International Astronautical Federation. He was the Vice President of the federation from 1984 to 1992.

Professor Rao has honorary Doctorate in Science from as many as 20 national and international universities.

Rao was the faculty member at the prestigious MIT and Assistant Professor at the University of Texas before returning to India in 1966. After returning to India, Rao joined the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad. Physical Research Laboratory was the very place where he earned his Ph.D in 1960, under the guidance of Prof. Vikram Sarabhai, the father of Indian space programme.

UR Rao completed his B.Sc from the Madras University in 1952. He completed his M.Sc from the esteemed Banaras Hindu University in the year 1954.

UR Rao served the ISRO in the capacity of the Chairman from 1984 to 1994.

The 10 years saw Indian space endeavours taking new heights. Even before that, under the valuable guidance of Professor Rao, India launched its first satellite, the Aryabhatta in 1975. Thereafter, there was no looking back, India successfully launched as many as about 20 indigenous satellites successfully. That includes the Rohini, Bhaskara and also the INSAT series. The INSAT, designed as well as launched under Rao’s guidance, brought about a revolution in the communication sector. It connected even the remotest nooks and corners of the country to the telephone lines. The INSAT satellites provided for the formation of Subscriber Trunk Dialing or STD. (Connecting through telephone meant long wait earlier. The launch of INSAT communication satellites reduced this wait entirely.)

After taking over as the Chairman of ISRO, Rao took upon himself the responsibility for development of Rocket Technology in India.

His immense dedication and outstanding leadership resulted in the launch of ASLV rocket in 1992 and subsequently launching a satellite through the PSLV in 1995. It was also during his tenure that the development of GSLV started.

In his vast career as a space scientist, UR Rao was one of those dignified men who were the part of most of the ISRO’s achievements. Even after his retirement, Rao was a regular visiting Professor at the ISRO.

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UR Rao published more than 350 technical papers and journals in various fields related to space and Satellite technology.

Rao is the recipient of over 40 national and international awards.

Professor Rao also authored a number of books like “Space Technology for Sustainable Development”, “Physics of the Communication”, and also “Space and Agenda 21 – Caring for the Planet Earth”.

To note a few amongst the numerous notable chairs he held during his lifetime, he was the first Chairman of Prasar Bharati, India’s largest public broadcasting agency, when it was setup in 1997. UR Rao served as the Co-Chairman of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research. In June 1997, he was elected the Chairman of United Nations – Committee On Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN-COPUOS). Rao was also the member of Board of Directors of the Reserve Bank of India.

At the time of his death, UR Rao was the Chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthpuram, a government aided deemed university set up by the ISRO. (Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was the first Chancellor of the premier institute untill his death in 2015.)

Professor Rao’s academic achievements is in itself a phenomenon. Along with his numerous awards, he was also a fellow of as many as 15 worldwide universities.

UR Rao stands amongst those notable personalities who took India’s space technology to incredible heights.

UR Rao not only leaves behind a legacy, but his sad demise has resulted in a permanent vacuum.

A grateful nation, both the scientific community and the rest of India pays rich tributes to the legendary scientist. To the man behind India’s successful space endeavours, UR Rao- The Satellite Man of India.


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