Here's what you need to know about the Indian Space Research Organization

You may have seen inter-galactic battles in movies where aliens fight it out with your common man-turned-superhero and it all seems a bit too surreal. Doesn’t it? However, with innovation and advancements in space technology, the day is not far where we just might discover other livable planets and those movies might actually come to life.

Space organizations all over the world have been trying to use their knowledge to understand the galaxies above and beyond and what they achieve in real life is not any less charismatic than what you may have seen on your silver screen.

And India is not far behind; whose national space agency has made its mark among much more established space exploring entities like NASA.

How India made its mark as one of the largest space agencies in the world

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is the country’s national space agency, formed in 1969, with Indian scientist and innovator Vikram Sarabhai regarded as the founding father of the space program. The ISRO headquarters is situated in the city of Bengaluru.

Even though ISRO was formed in 1969, Sarabhai had already been involved in launching India’s space program for years. In 1962, India’s then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru handpicked the physicist, who was also his close aide, to make India’s mark in space. It was in that year that the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was set up by the Government of India.

Through Sarabhai’s efforts, India's first rocket launch flew from Saint Mary Magdalene Church in the fishing village of Thumba in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, on Nov. 21, 1963. The church then later became known as the “Mecca” of Indian space advancements.

The INCOSPAR was then replaced by ISRO, 7 years after its formation, in 1969.

Sarabhai understood and recognized the role of space technology and how, in the future, it would define a nation’s success. His vision gave a path and direction for ISRO to follow as it embarked on its journey to space exploration and understanding and expanding the technology attached to it.

ISRO’s vision for national development 

The ISRO’s vision is to “harness space technology for national development while pursuing space science research and planetary exploration.”

In 1975, India launched its first satellite, called  Aryabhata, with the help of the Soviet Union. The satellite was named after the first major Indian mathematician-astronomer, Aryabhata. However, it stopped working after a few days of function in space.

After that, the ISRO began working on developing its own set of the launch vehicle. (They had previously used a Soviet rocket.) In 1979, ISRO performed launch tests on the Satellite Launch Vehicle-3 (SLV-3), which could reportedly place up to 88 lbs. (40 kilograms) of payloads into orbit.

India makes it to space

On July 18, 1980, India became only the sixth “space-faring” nation in the world after SLV-3 successfully was launched from Sriharikota Range (SHAR) and placed Rohini Satellite (RS-1) in orbit.

After SLV-3’s success, the ISRO subsequently launched advanced launch vehicle projects such as the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV), Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).

The ISRO has become the sixth-largest space agency in the world, upholding its mission of “bringing space to the service of the common man, to the service of the Nation.”

The ISRO has one of the largest accumulations of communication satellites (INSAT) and remote sensing (IRS) satellites. According to the official Indian government website, the national space agency has developed applications which help the nation with their needs of “broadcasts, communications, weather forecasts, disaster management tools, Geographic Information Systems, cartography, navigation, telemedicine, and dedicated distance education.”

The Indian Space Research Organization’s missions have not been restricted to satellites only. The nation has also carried out robotic missions throughout the solar system.

ISRO’s lunar orbiter makes it to the Moon

In 2008, the agency sent the Chandrayaan-1 orbiter to the moon. The lunar orbiter operated between October 2008 and August 2009. The word “Chandrayaan” translates to “Moon Craft” in Sanskrit. It is popular for discovering evidence of water molecules on the Moon.

India joins the “Red Planet Club”

In 2014, India made a historic entry to “the Mars club.”

The national space agency’s Mars Orbiter Mission, nicknamed Mangalyaan ( Sanskrit for “Mars Craft”) was hailed a huge success. India became only the fourth country to successfully enter the Red Planet’s orbit.

"What is red, is a planet and is the focus of my orbit?" officials with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said via Twitter, in a rather jolly announcement of the orbital-insertion success.

"It was an impressive engineering feat, and we welcome India to the family of nations studying another facet of the Red Planet. We look forward to MOM adding to the knowledge the international community is gathering with the other spacecraft at Mars," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

Chandrayaan-2 and another trip planned to the Moon

With a successful Mars mission under its belt, the ISRO is gearing up to launch Chandrayaan-2, India's second mission to the Moon.

According to ISRO’s official website, it is a “totally indigenous mission comprising of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover. After reaching the 100 km lunar orbit, the Lander housing the Rover will separate from the Orbiter. After a controlled descent, the Lander will soft land on the lunar surface at a specified site and deploy a Rover.”

“The Chandrayaan-2 weighing around 3290 kg and would orbit around the moon and perform the objectives of remote sensing the moon,” according to the ISRO website. The orbiter is set to launch later this year.

Future aims: preparing to send an Indian into space

Already a force to be reckoned with in space, the Indian government has set out a new, more ambitious target of sending humans to space using their own rockets.

"Our country has made great progress in space," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during a speech on Aug. 15, 2018, to mark the country's independence day, according to a translation by the Planetary Society, a nonprofit space science organization. "But our scientists have a dream. By 2022, when it would be 75 years of independence, an Indian — be it a man or a woman — will go to space with the tricolor flag in their hands."

While the ISRO works on a series of scheduled mission called Gaganyaan, with the allocated budget of US$ 1.3 billion equivalency, for human spaceflight, there is a question of what Indian astronauts would be called? According to an article in Scientific American, they will be called vyomanauts, from the Sanskrit word "Vyoma," meaning "sky."

Will we soon see the Indian flag being lifted into space? Only time will tell.

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