India's journey into space: From bicycles to rockets

Renowned Indian space scientist Udupi Ramachandra Rao -- the brains behind India's first satellite Aryabhatta -- died at 85 on Monday. Rao was involved in all of India's key space programmes.

The father of India's space programme

Vikram Sarabhai is thought of as the father of India's space programme. He set up the Indian Space Research Organisation in 1969.

'The future belongs to science'

Before ISRO there was the Indian National Committee for Space Research, founded by Nehru.
Nehru thought it was important to inculcate a 'scientific temper' in the Indian people.
'The future belongs to science and those who make friends with science,' he said.

Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station

India's first rocket-launcing site was built at Thumba, a suburb of Thiruvananthapuram. Sarabhai zeroed in on it because it was close to the magnetic equator.

Where do you build a rocket-launch site? A church

The land that Sarabhai zeroed in on belonged to a chuch. When he and his colleagues went to the Bishop of Thiruvananthapuram to speak to him about acquiring the land, the bishop replied that they should attend his Sunday mass.
Thumba is now called the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.

How do you transport your rockets? On bicycles

Some of the most endearing images of India's space programme are of rocket parts being transported to the launch site in Thumba by bicycle and bullock cart.

... and on bullock carts

The first rocket India sent up was the NASA-made Nike-Apache.

Udupi Ramachandra Rao

Rao was chairman of ISRO from 1984 to 1994. He has been associated with all of India's key space programmes in one capacity or another.

Aryabhata satellite

Rao was the brains behind India's first satellite 'Aryabhatta'. Aryabhatta was launched on April 19, 1975 from Kasputin Yar in the then USSR.

India goes to the moon

India became the fourth country to drop its flag on the moon on November 14, 2008, after Chandrayaan's Moon Impact Probe hit the lunar surface

... and to Mars

ISRO sent Mangalyaan on its way to Mars on November 5, 2013. When it entered Mars orbit, it made India the first country to do so successfully on its first attempt.

Going to space makes business sense

India finally hopes to position itself as a low-cost alternative for countries wanting to put satellites in space.
But there is still a long way to go.
According to a Space Foundation report, the global space industry in 2015 was valued at $323 billion and India accounted for just 0.6 percent of that business.