Bengaluru, July 24 (IANS) Renowned Indian space scientist U.R. Rao, the architect of early satellites including Aryabhatta, Bhaskar, Apple, Rohini and multi-purpose Insat series, passed away here early on Monday, said an ISRO official. He was 85.
Rao passed away at his residence around 3 a.m. after prolonged illness and due to age-related health issues, an official of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) told IANS. Rao’s wife, who was also a scientist, son and daughter were at the bed side when he breathed his last.
His last rites were held on Monday evening with full state honours.
A 21-gun salute was given and bugles were sounded before the last rites at Hebbal crematorium where hundreds of people, including scientists, engineers, officials, friends and relatives bid him a tearful adieu.
Rao, who was Chairman of ISRO for a decade until 1994, was in a private hospital till recently due to a heart ailment and was recovering at home, the official said.
Rao’s death plunged the scientific community into grief.
“Saddened by the demise of renowned scientist. His remarkable contribution to India’s space programme will never be forgotten,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
ISRO Chairman A.S. Krishna Kumar, senior space scientists and many others from the space agency rushed to Rao’s house on hearing the news.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also visited the house and laid a wreath on Rao’s body.
As a mark of respect, Rao’s cortege was taken to ISRO’s Satellite Centre on the Old Airport Road in the eastern suburb from his residence to enable hundreds of scientists and officials to pay homage.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted: “U.R. Rao led India’s space research programme to unprecedented heights. His contribution was remarkable. I’m saddened by his demise.”
BJP President Amit Shah too saluted Rao’s “remarkable contribution” to India’s space research programme.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said Rao helped to take ISRO to unparalleled heights since the launch of Aryabhatta.
In a message to the bereaved family, Siddaramaiah said: “Rao served the country and the Indian space agency for over four decades.
“He was the architect of the early satellites, including Aryabhatta, Bhaskar, Apple, Rohini and many multi-purpose Insat series of satellites.”
He said Rao brought about a dramatic change in communications, remote sensing and weather services in the country.
He also praised his scientific temper and described him as “a proud Indian and a Kannadiga”. “He was humble and simple though a towering personality in the international space community.”
Born on March 10, 1932, near Udupi, Rao was Chairman of the Governing Council of the space agency’s Physical Research Laboratory at Ahmedabad and Chancellor for the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology at Thiruvananthapuram.
The Indian government this year conferred the country’s second highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan, on Rao, who was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1976.
Rao was the first Indian to be inducted in May 2016 into the prestigious International Astronautics Federation’s Hall of Fame at Guadalajara in Mexico.
The Paris-based space advocacy organisation was set up in 1951 to promote dialogue and exchange information for space cooperation in the world.
Rao was also inducted into the ‘Satellite Hall of Fame’ in Washington in 2013 by the Society of Satellite Professionals International, an ISRO official said.
As a pioneer in space technology, Rao contributed immensely to the optimal utilization of space assets for satellite-based communications and remote sensing of the country’s natural resources.
He was instrumental in the development of the geostationary launch vehicle (GSLV) and the development of cryogenic technology.