Former Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Udupi Ramachandra Rao or U.R. Rao passed away on Monday, July 24, at the age of 85 at this residence in Bengaluru. “Rao breathed his last during the early hours, around 3 AM today,” ISRO Public Relations Director Deviprasad Karnik told PTI. A Padma Bhushan awardee, Professor Rao was also awarded the Padma Vibushan in the year 2017. Born in the year 1932 in Karnataka, Rao received his primary education at Adamaru. A major part of his education took place in the Southern part of the country. He completed his B.Sc from Madras University in the year 1952. Post that, he completed his M.Sc from the Banaras Hindu University in 1954 and then in the year 1960, he completed his PhD from the Gujrat University under the guidance of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai.
Upon completing his education, Rao started working as a Faculty Member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and became an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas. He returned to India in the year 1966 and became a professor at the Physical Research Laboratory which is situated in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. According to Wikipedia, he was the first person to study the effect of solar wind on geomagnetism using Mariner 2 observations. He was convinced of the need for space technology in rapid development and took over the responsibility for establishing satellite technology in India in the year 1972. It was under his guidance that India built its first satellite, Aryabhata, in 1975.
He became the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization in 1984, where he started to work on developing rocket technology. Rao’s contribution the ISRO has been commendable. As reported by Indian Express, it was under his leadership that India had successfully launched the ASLV rocket and the fully operational PSLV launch vehicle, which is capable of launching 2.0 tonne class of satellites into the polar orbit. He was the first Indian to be inducted into the prestigious Satellite Hall of Fame, Washington in 2013 and the International Astronautics Federation (IAF), Mexico, in 2016. Being a holder of numerous National and International awards, the last award this great scientist received was the Padma Vibhushan in January 2017.