Book Review: ISRO: A Personal History

Title: ISRO: A Personal History
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Author: R. Aravamudan with Gita Aravamudan

A delightful personal account of India’s space program from the very beginning. With personal memories from an era that otherwise would be lost. This is an important historical record of events that will in a few years be lost entirely in living memory. It is a non-technical account written by an engineer. The co-author Gita Aravamudan’s, experience in journalism is no doubt a key factor in the succinct and easy to read the narrative style.

As expected it is the personal anecdotes that really make this a fascinating reading. The reference to “chase a chimaera” wonderfully captures the extraordinary goal Sarabhai had set for India of 1962. Aravamudan’s personal accounts of meetings and working with Sarabhai, Bhabha and Kalam. While at NASA Wallops, his meeting the engineers from Pakistan captures a unique moment when the two neighbours’ space programs were at a stage of capability.

Visits by the Dalia Lama, J.R.D Tata, confrontation with local fishermen and union disputes paint a richer picture of Thumba than I had not come across before. The first-hand account of travelling to Australia to purchase a fully functioning telemetry station has surprising twists and turns. The public display of a moon rock at Sriharikota caught the imagination of the local population who turned up in unexpectedly large numbers to view it.

During his time as a director at Sriharikota, he describes the administrative burden of managing the town-like scale of the centre. As the director, he was responsible for the operations of a school, hospital, shopping centre, mosque and a temple in addition to managing the space missions. The authors remain apolitical and consistent with similar books by former ISRO employees. Naturally, the author is proud of his contribution and occasionally exaggerating ISRO’s achievement (i.e. ISRO being the first agency withMars Orbiter Mission to succeed with orbiting Mars on the first attempt). I would have liked to have seen more about the exchanges between the Indian and Pakistani engineers when the met at Wallops.

Historians of the future will be indebted to Aravamudan and his wife for chronicling a unique episode in India’s journey as a space power.


Manchester – This is the Place

One of the more memorable events from Manchester over the last week. A poem by Tony Walsh.  I don’t listen to much poetry but this is a Riveting five minutes.

Book Review : Space India 2.0

Title: Space India 2.0 Publisher:  Observer Research Foundation Author: Edited by Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan and Narayan Prasad Free download from If you are looking for a single source of current state of play with the Indian space programme from a diverse collection of writers from in and outside India – this is it. This book is a […]

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Public Event. Anglo Indian Stephen Smith – India’s forgotten Rocketeer

What: A public talk on Anglo Indian Stephen Smith. His life and achievements. Where: The Larkhill Centre, Thorley Lane, Timperley, WA15 7AZ (about 3 miles from Manchester International Airport) When: 19:30 – 20:15 Tuesday 21st March 2017 The event is organised by the India Study Circle for Philately. During the 1920s Stephen Smith founded the Calcutta […]

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ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1 – detected in lunar orbit

Using an innovative radar technique, NASA has been able to detect two space in lunar orbit from the surface if the Earth. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched in 2009 and was in lunar orbit at the same time as Chandrayaan-1. Although a joint experiment was designed  for both spacecraft, it did not work out. […]

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Book Review: ISRO’s Earth Observation Cameras

India’s Journey Towards Excellence In Building Earth Observation Cameras

Title: India’s Journey Towards Excellence In Building Earth Observation Cameras Publisher: Author: Dr George Joseph ISBN:  978-93-5206-998-9 As a late joiner to the space club, India’s space program was in “catch-up” mode for most of its early history.  Never the less, original technological innovation did take place. In this book, Dr George Joseph describes […]

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Book Review – From Fishing Hamlet to Red Planet: India’s Space Journey

Title: From Fishing Hamlet to Red Planet: India’s Space Journey Publisher: Harper Collins India Author: ISRO Chief Editor: P.V. Manoranjan Rao This book is probably the most detailed and most comprehensive account of how the Indian Space Program was founded and has developed since 1963.   There is no single narrative that flows from the […]

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Akatsuki – New arrival at Venus

With two active rovers on the surface of Mars and six satellites in orbit, the Human exploration of Mars continues as never before. Two more missions will be leaving Earth for Mars in early 2016. However, the space news of this week that has not received the due global attention is the arrival of the […]

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Public Talk – The Indian Space Program

I will be in Keighley, Yorkshire speaking about the Indian Space program operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation – ISRO. I will speak about the its Mars Orbiter mission  has been in Martian orbit  since September 2014. All onboard instruments are returning data and the spacecraft is in good health. Keighley is about 20 […]

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Mars – The new space race?

A fascinating day here at in Liverpool. Some of you asked for copies of the slides – now on here on slideshare. More about The British Interplanetary Society, Manchester and Liverpool’s role in the space race – here.

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