story of thumpa rocket centre-kerala ;south India-1963-2013

Rocket was ferried in bullock cart

AHMEDABAD: A Catholic church in the costal village of Thumba near Thiruvanathapuram in Kerala became the rocket assembly station, the local bishop's house was turned into a permanent office for visiting scientists from the Physical research Laboratory (PRL) and the rocket itself was transported to the Thumba launch site in a bullock cart. This was India's first rocket launch - the Nike-Apache on November 21, 1963. Dr Vikram Sarabhai spearheaded the mission.
An Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Scientist transporting a nose cone of a rocket on a cycle. Thumba, Kerala, 1968.

Among those present at Thumba from PRL was former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam, former PRL professor Praful Bhavsar and a dedicated group of engineers from Ahmedabad. Sarabhai, who was chairman of the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR), had signed an agreement with NASA to launch US sounding rockets from India as part of some equatorial experiments.

When Thumba was selected as a sounding rocket launch site, the land had to be acquired within 100 days. The district collector Madahavan Nair accompanied by Rev Dr Peter Bernard Pereira announced in the St Mary Magdalene church that India would require the church premises for the rocket launch. The fishermen immediately agreed, while the bishop volunteered to donate his home for the scientists.

  Life at Thumba in the early 70s. There were no proper transport facilities and hence the rocket nose cone had to be carried on a cycle!
Henri Cartier Bresson came to photograph it

After India's successful rocket launch in 1963, Indian scientists were experimenting with French Centaur sounding rockets. By this time, a few engineers from Ahmedabad had gone to France to study rocket designs. By 1966, the team was already assembling centaur rockets at the Thumba range. This drew the famous French photographer Henri Cartier Bresson to Thrivanathapuram where he captured India's rocket launch story on film.

A `Nike-Apache' (sounding) rocket being made ready for launch from TERLS.

It was on November 21, 1963, at 18:25 IST that the American made Nike-Apache rocket was launched from Thumba, the first rocket to be launched from Indian soil for scientific purposes.

Rohini rocket.jpg
Launch of RH-300 Mk2 from TERLS

soon after this Homi Bhabha's  Air.India flight crashed mysteriously in alps .CIA was blamed for sabotage



India's Mars mission 'a big morale booster'

The satellite launched this morning, and is aiming to circulate Mars and test its soil. Credit: Reuters
India's successful launch of an unmanned satellite to Mars will be a big boost for morale for the South Asian country, one of India's leading lunar scientists told the BBC.
As the mission blasted off from Chennai, in the east of the world's second most populous country, SK Shivakumar, director of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Bangalore said:
"National pride is important. If the Mars mission succeeds, it will be a big morale booster for India. We are not in a space race."

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C25) carrying the Mars orbiter blasts off near Chennai. Credit: Babu /Reuters
Read: India using low-cost technology for Mars mission