23 February 1962
INCOSPAR was established.
On 23 February 1962, the Indian National Committee for Space Research or INCOSPAR was established by the government.
- After the country gained its freedom in 1947, top politicians and scientists recognised the importance of space and rocket technology for India.
- The first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru saw a lot of potential in rocket science and understood the need for a sound policy on space. This would have a lot of applications for a geographically large developing country like India. Nehru recognised the importance of science and technology for the development of a country.
- After the USSR launched its satellite Sputnik, which was the first artificial earth satellite, people began to realise the potential of satellites.
- Nehru then put space research under the ambit of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in 1961. The DAE was founded and then headed by veteran nuclear scientist Homi J Bhabha.
- Bhabha created the Indian National Committee for Space Research or INCOSPAR in February 1962 with another brilliant scientist Vikram Sarabhai as its Chairman.
- Sarabhai organised space research under INCOSPAR. The chief mandate of the INCOSPAR was to formulate India’s space programme. The responsibilities of the DAE related to space research were then taken up by the committee.
- INCOSPAR was part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) which was led by another eminent physicist from India, MGK Menon. Another young scientist was part of the rocket engineer team as well. He was none other than future president APJ Abdul Kalam.
- The committee took the decision to establish the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) at Thumba, near Thiruvananthapuram at India’s southern tip. TERLS is a spaceport used to launch rockets.
- Thumba (an obscure fishing village) was chosen as the location because of its proximity to the magnetic equator of the planet. In fact, it is perfectly suitable for conducting low-altitude, ionospheric and upper atmosphere studies. Another factor that worked in favour of Thumba is its extremely distant location from Pakistan, China and Bangladesh.
- In 1969, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was formed out of INCOSPAR. In 1972, it came under the newly-created Department of Space.
- ISRO built its first satellite in 1975 and named it Aryabhatta. It was launched by USSR. The first Indian-built launch vehicle was SLV-3 and it was used to launch the Rohini satellite in 1980. There has been no looking back since for the Indian space programme. ISRO launched a lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan I in 2008 and its first Mars orbiter, the Mars Orbiter Mission in 2014. With this, India became the first country to achieve success in putting a satellite on the Mars orbit in its maiden attempt and the fourth space agency and the first Asian agency to do so.
- In 2017, ISRO created another world record by launching 104 satellites in a single rocket. It launched its heaviest rocket yet, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III and placed the GSAT 19 in orbit. There are future plans for a human spaceflight, interplanetary probes and a solar mission as well.
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