Veterans who like poetry and books

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Sriharikota
  • Published 22.10.08
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Sriharikota, Oct. 22: Veteran Isro engineers who cut their teeth on some of India’s earliest space projects are among key people who have directed various components of the Chandrayaan-1 mission. At Sriharikota today, some of them stood side by side with Isro chairman G. Madhavan Nair, displaying the thumbs-up sign.

Mylswamy Annadurai: A 50-year-old electronics engineer from Coimbatore, who says he likes Tamil poetry, joined Isro in 1982 and began developing software to simulate the design of satellites. He was operations manager and mission director for remote sensing and Insat satellites before being picked as project director — the main designer and architect — of Chandrayaan-1. The task was particularly challenging, he said, because it meant cramming 11 science instruments and standard communication and power systems into a single cuboid box — turning it into the most complex satellite yet built in India.

Srirangapatna Shivkumar: An electronics engineer whose first assignment in Isro within weeks after joining it in 1976 was to track its very first satellite, Aryabhata, launched a few months earlier. He is the head of India’s Deep Space Network, a Rs 100-crore facility established near Bangalore that will allow India to receive the weak signals from Chandrayaan-1 through two large dish antennae. He led a team of about a dozen engineers who designed the network. “It’s a vital element in the mission. We’ve never communicated with such distant spacecraft,” Shivkumar, 55, says.

George Koshy: A mechanical engineer who joined the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, in the 1970s and helped design India’s first launch vehicle SLV-3, was project director for the PSLV C-11, the launch vehicle that carried Chandrayaan-1 into space. Koshy, 55, had to ensure that the rocket performed exactly as intended. He believes Chandrayaan-1, while a pure science mission, will have technology spin-offs in the long run.

M. Chandra Dathan: A chemical engineer who specialised in rocket propellants but says he likes to read about social psychology and management has been the director of the Sriharikota launch centre for the past four years and was head of the launch authorisation board for Chandrayaan-1. “For us, every single launch is precious,” he says. “There’s enormous team work in this organisation.”