Born in a small village named Admaru in Udupi, Prof Udupi Ramachandra Rao - the man behind India’s 1st satellite ‘Aryabhatta’, passed away on July 24, 2017 at the age of 85. An eminent space scientist and former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman, he has been conferred a Padma Vibhushan earlier this year. Prof. Rao was also awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1976. In May 2016, He became the first Indian to be given the 'Hall of Fame' award by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF).
Prof Udupi Ramachandra Rao, famously known as UR Rao has been instrumental in designing India’s modern satellite and space program. In the last phase of his life, the former Isro chief was serving as the chairman of the governing council of the physical research laboratory and the chancellor of the Indian Institute of Science and Technology at Thiruvananthapuram.
Apart from his achievements as a scientist, he was a great leader and a true builder of institutions. Some of his remarkable qualities which the corporate leaders of today can learn from him are as follows:
Keep challenging yourself
He was known to take up challenging tasks during his career. He said, “If you are not excited about anything, you will not achieve anything great.”Rao was in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from where he moved to South West Centre for his advanced studies. But on one call, he left everything and came back to serve his country. It was in the late 1960s that Rao was recalled from the United States by Prof Vikram Sarabhai to take charge of India's satellite program. A 30-36 months project mandated by Smt. Indira Gandhi was a major challenge for Rao and his team. And as a result, the first Indian satellite 'Aryabhata' was launched in 1975 under his watch.
Be a visionary
His views were respected by everyone who knew him or had worked with him. Throughout his career, Prof. Udupi Ramachandra Rao emphasized the importance of keeping the space program focused on technology that would aid the country's development, which included weather, remote-sensing and communication satellites. As the first director ISRO Satellite Centre, Dr. Rao was responsible for 18 early satellites which included the landmark Bhaskara, APPLE and the Indian Remote sensing Satellites. He initiated the development of the geostationary launch vehicle GSLV and the development of cryogenic technology in 1991. Dr. Rao’s space journey blossomed under Vikram Sarabhai and he was then the only Indian who had worked on NASA’s Pioneer and Explorer satellite projects.
Develop future leaders
“I love interacting with the students,” he was quoted as saying this many a time. He believed in creating leaders and not just leading them. He had created a second-rung of scientists which was unlike many other leaders of his time. He spoke his mind. He knew how to figure out his weakness and how to work on it. And that’s why he always led by example.
He was a recipient of the Doctor of Science (D.Sc) degree from 25 universities, including the University of Bologna, the oldest university in Europe. He has published over 350 scientific and technical papers covering cosmic rays, interplanetary physics, high-energy astronomy, space applications, satellite, and rocket technology, and also authored many books.
At ISRO, there are hardly any planetary projects and missions that have not been touched by Prof. Udupi Ramachandra Rao. As the chairman of overseeing body ADCOS or the Advisory Committee on Space Sciences, he had been instrumental in shaping and further refining the Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission of 2008, the Mars Orbiter Mission of 2013; and the upcoming Chandrayaan-2 set for 2018. "Saddened by the demise of renowned scientist, His remarkable contribution to India's space program will never be forgotten," tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He will surely be missed but never forgotten.