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India's Space Odyssey: A look at ISRO's journey from modest beginnings to lunar landings

ISRO, the world's sixth-largest space agency, has come a long way in exploring its capabilities and in reducing dependency on foreign launch services. Chandrayaan-3 to Aditya-L1 are a few of the many landmark space missions that India has undertaken.

Written By: Puja Sethi @pujasethi11 New Delhi Updated on: January 30, 2024 17:59 IST
Student stand near a model of Chandrayaan-3 missions Vikram
Image Source : PTI Student stand near a model of Chandrayaan-3 missions Vikram lander

India's space program is a major source of pride for the country, contributing to its soft power diplomacy and establishing India as a trustworthy partner in the international space community. 

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the world's sixth-largest space agency, created history as India successfully landed the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft near the lunar south pole, making it the fourth country to successfully land on the Moon after erstwhile USSR, the US and China and solidifying its position as a space-faring nation. 

The journey began, modestly in 1962, when Vikram Sarabhai was appointed to establish INCOSPAR, later known as ISRO which formally came into being on August 15, 1969. 

India has devoted decades to enhancing its space exploration capabilities. Despite initial mission setbacks, during the early launches, the ISRO persevered and scripted a remarkable odyssey. 

It first made its foray into the field with the launch of Aryabhata, its first satellite, in 1975 - a 358 kg (787 lb) satellite that carried scientific instruments to study the Earth's atmosphere and radiation belts.

In 1980, the Indian-built SLV-3 successfully placed the Rohini satellite RS-1 in orbit. Since then, the ISRO has made significant technological advancements. In 1983, India launched a series of geostationary satellites (INSAT) and developed indigenous satellite launch vehicles like the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).

The successful launch of these vehicles reduced dependency on foreign launch services and positioned India as a cost-effective and reliable player globally. Despite limited resources, the ISRO has cultivated an illustrious track record in space exploration.

 
Chandrayaan-1

India's first mission to the Moon was launched in 2008.
 
Mangalyaan
India's first interplanetary mission was launched in 2013.
 
Chandrayaan-2
India's second mission to the Moon was launched in 2019.
 
Chandrayaan-3
India's third lunar mission consisting of an orbiter, a lander and a rover.India Tv - ISRO's Launch Vehicle Mark-III (LVM3) M4 rocket carrying Chandrayaan-3 lifts off from the launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota

Image Source : PTIISRO's Launch Vehicle Mark-III (LVM3) M4 rocket carrying Chandrayaan-3 lifts off from the launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota

These are just a few of the many landmark space missions that India has undertaken. To date, the space agency has executed 123 spacecraft missions and 95 launch missions. The ISRO is expected to undertake many more ambitious missions in the coming times.
 
Aditya-L1, the first space-based Indian observatory to study the Sun, was also launched.
 
Gaganyaan, its ambitious manned mission to the space. The ISRO Chairman already called 2024 to be a year of Gaganyaan readiness followed by Mangalyaan 2, Shukrayaan 1, NISAR and INSAT-3DS. India also aims to put an astronaut on the Moon by 2040 and build an Earth-orbiting space station by 2035.
 
A blend of cost-effectiveness and innovation has been ISRO's distinctive approach to space exploration. The world is gazing in awe at India's remarkable ability to achieve milestones like the Mangalyaan and Chandrayaan-3 missions, all accomplished without big budgets.
 
India's space program has been instrumental in addressing societal challenges and fostering national development. 
 
International partnerships signify a new chapter of India's prominent role in the global space arena. In 2023, India solidified key strategic partnerships with the USA and France, with both nations affirming their commitment to future space cooperation.
 
Advancements in technology, government support, and skilled workforce have not only enabled India to meet its space requirements but also attract commercial satellite launches from other countries. The ISRO has launched over 430 foreign satellites. 
 
According to some international observers, India has the potential to reach a 100 billion USD space economy by 2040.
 
In conclusion, India's space journey has been a transformative force, reshaping the nation's technological landscape, fostering international collaborations, and driving economic growth. As the ISRO continues to push the boundaries of space exploration, India is poised to make even greater strides in the years to come.

"When it launched its first rocket in 1963, India was a poor country, pursuing the world's most cutting-edge technology. That projectile, its nose cone, wheeled to the launchpad by a bicycle, put a small payload 124 miles above the Earth. India was barely pretending to keep up with the US and the Soviet Union. In today's space race, India has found much surer footing," a leading US Newspaper recently said about India. It seems that India's space agency has become a world favourite today.

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