India’s Pioneer Space Scientist – Professor Udupi Ramachandra Rao

Professor Udupi Ramachandra Rao is a world renowned space scientist andhas been one of the pioneers in the establishment of satellite technology in India. He spearheaded the IT revolution in India during the 1980s and 1990s by using satellites for communication, broadcasting and remote sensing.

His Early Education

Born in 1932 in the small village of Adamaru in the state of Karnataka, U.R. Rao studied in Mysore and then graduated from Madras University in 1951 with a Bachelor of Science Degree and completed his Masters Degree from Banaras Hindu University by 1953. He studied further and acquired a PhD from Gujarat University in 1960, after which he left India to conduct advanced research on spacecrafts in the United States of America.

His Illustrious Career

Professor Rao went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, as a Post Doctorate Fellow in 1961. He taught at the University of Texas in Dallas before coming back to India in 1966 and joining the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad, where he worked under Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the founder of the Indian Space Program. He became the Chairman of Space Commission, in the Department of Space under the Government of India and also the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in 1984.

UR Rao

Professor Rao has been a member, chairman or director at various science and technology organizations and has taken up roles like that of Chairman of the UN committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the Vice President of the International Astronautical Federation.

He has also guided the Indian Government in various capacities as a part of the National Security Advisory Board, The Space Commission and the Central Board of Directors, Reserve Bank of India.

His Role as the Chairman

Dr. Rao was the Chairman of ISRO from 1984 to 1994. At ISRO, he revolutionized space research and the use of satellite technology by successfully developing and launching SLV, ASL and PSLV satellites and rockets into outer space.The most famous of these were the very first satellite Aryabhata and the INSAT series of satellites.

The satellites were used for TV and radio broadcasting, nationwide communication through STD services as well as remote sensing and disaster warning systems. It was due to the efforts of Dr. Rao that INSAT became the largest domestic communication system in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Awards and Recognition

Professor Rao has received very high honors in India and abroad for his contribution to Space Science and Technology. He has received a D.Sc (Hons. Causa) from more than 20 Universities across India and has been named a Fellow by various academies worldwide including the International Academy of Astronautics and the World Academy of Arts & Sciences, USA.

Professor Rao was awarded the Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian awards, in the year 1976 by the Government of India, for his contribution to space technology and the benefits that it brought to the Indian society. Dr. Rao has been awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru award, Aryabhata award, Meghnad Saha as well as the Von Karman Award from the International Academy of Astronautics in 2005.

In 2007, President A P J Abdul Kalam presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

His Further Contributions

Dr. Rao has authored many books including Space and Agenda 21 – Caring for Planet Earth and Space Technology for Sustainable Development, apart from publishing more than 350 scientific and technical papers on topics like cosmic rays, astronomy, space applications, and satellite and rocket technology.

His recommendations to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) have become the primary force in shaping Government policies on technical education and other related issues in India.