Anna Mani –

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In 1963, Vikram Sarabhai requested her to set-up a meteorological observatory and an instrumented tower at the Thumba rockelaunching facility. The observatory was set-up and regular observations commenced. Tower instrumentation was something
totally new to her and she persuaded the Overseas Communication Service to dismantle one of their 200 ft towers at Pune and reinstall it at Thumba. The tower was ready two days before the
scheduled launch of the first rocket. Wind instruments had to be
fixed at five different levels on extendable booms and connected
to the panels set-up in the control room. The data was vital for
wind-weighting to determine the elevation and azimuth setting of
the rocket. The question was who will climb the tower and install
the equipment. When she left for lunch my colleague C K
Chandrasekharan coolly went to the foot of the tower signalling
me to follow. The ladder was outside the tower frame and the
climb, absolutely scary. We climbed to the top without pausing.
Instruments were commissioned in time. It was one of the thrilling moments we experienced together. Everything went well and
there was jubilation all round when the first rocket thundered into
the clear blue morning skies.
Anna Mani retired as the Deputy Director-General of Instruments
in IMD in 1976 but was busier for the next two decades. She spent
three years with Raman Research Institute in Bangalore

She was a spinster. In 1994 she suffered a stroke and remained
immobile for the rest of her life. She passed away on 16 August
2001 at Thiruvananthapuram.

The First sounding rocket launched fromThumba

In 1963, Thumba became operational with the launch of a foreign rocket to study the atmosphere near the launch sounding rockets form Thumba as it is a facility under the auspices of the United Nations.

Rocket parts being transported to the launchpad on a bicycle.
India holds its first rocket launch from a fishing village in southern India on November 21, 1963.
Meanwhile, in Ahmedabad, a space centre was established to provide the necessary thrust for application of space technology in various fields of development. The Thumba complex was renamed the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in honor of Sarabhai, who died suddenly in 1971. A satellite project was established at Bangalore in 1972, which was subsequently developed as the ISRO Satellite Centre responsible for the design, development and launching of all spacecraft.

 Scientists travelled daily from Thiruvananthapuram in buses, carrying lunch bought at the railway station.  Many rocket parts were carried by the scientists on bicycles from one place to another within the sprawling range of Thumba.

 Thumba was soon termed Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station. The first sounding rocket, Nike Apache supplied by NASA, was launched on November 21st 1963.

ISRO’s launch support, tracking network and range facilities are located in various centers. Centers in Sriharikota, Thumba, and Balasore (in Orissa) can launch rockets, with the main control centre in Bangalore. The tracking and command network includes, besides the launch ranges, centers in Lucknow, Car Nicobar Islands and Mauritius. There is also an optical satellite tracking and ranging station IN Kavalur, in Tamil Nadu.
The first Indian rocket, called Rohini-75 (the number indicates its diameter in mm), was launched from Thumba in 1967. encouraged by the success, the engineers made a two-stage rocket called Centaur and started regular production of sounding rockets in 1971. The Rohini series expanded. The diameter of the rockets steadily increased along with their sophistication.



India's space odyssey

So far, there have been some 2,200 sounding-rocket launches from that facility, according to the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center.
But the South Asian nation's space program has been far more expansive -- the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has more than 60 events that it lists as "milestones" since 1962-63, which includes the successful use of polar and geosynchronous satellite launch vehicles. Photo See India's space odyssey in photos »
Fast forward to 2008: The country launches its first unmanned mission to the Moon in what is being seen as the 21st-Century, Asian version of the space race between the United States and the USSR -- but this time the two nations involved are India and China.
In September of that same year, a Chinese astronaut took a spacewalk, his country's first.
A month later, India sent Chandrayaan-1 -- Chandrayaan means "moon craft" in Sanskrit -- on a two-year mission to take high-resolution, three-dimensional images of the lunar surface, especially the permanently-shadowed polar regions.
The craft, carrying payloads from the United States, the European Union and Bulgaria, will search for evidence of water or ice and attempt to identify the chemical composition of certain lunar rocks.
Nonetheless, India maintains competition does not drive its space program.

Vikram Sarabhai, seen as the father of India's space program, made this case for government funding of the program in the 1960s:
"We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically-advanced nations in the exploration of the Moon or the planets or manned space-flight," Sarabhai said, according to ISRO's Website.
"But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society," said Sarabhai, in what the agency described as a "vision" for India's space endeavors.

Earlier this year, the Indian government increased the federal budget for space research to around $1 billion from some $700 million, ISRO spokesman S. Satish told CNN, as scientists propose to send astronauts into space by 2015 on solely Indian missions.
ISRO was also studying the feasibility of sending a manned craft to the Moon by 2020, Satish said, adding that plans for unmanned Mars missions in the coming years have not been finalized.
The space agency dropped a TV-sized probe on the Moon last November that it said sent sufficient signals to the mother craft before a crash landing.
But the country's space ambitions are not limited to public research endeavors, Satish said.
"We have just entered the commercial satellite launch market," he said, including what ISRO noted is now the world's largest constellation of remote-sensing satellites.
These satellites, according to the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, capture images of the Earth that are used in a range of applications -- agriculture, water resources, urban development, mineral prospecting, environment, forestry, drought and flood forecasting, ocean resources and disaster management.
Another major system, or INSAT, is used for communication, television and meteorology.
"We have mastered the space technology in these 40 years. We have already sent an unmanned mission to the Moon and now we look forward to sending a manned one there," Satish said.


Glad to see more women choosing science as a career'

TNN Feb 18, 2012, 06.12AM IST
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It is heartening to see more women turning to scientific research for a career, said DRDO scientist Tessy Thomas while interacting with the students of Pattom central school in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday. Tessy, who is also leading the Directorate for Mission Design, said nearly 50% of the scientists working there are women. She had one message for the students - science has no gender.
Tessy, who is also the director of Agni missile project, said that she cannot go into the specifics of the project as of now. "All that I can say (about Agni-V launch) is that it can be expected very soon. It is a solid fuelled long range inter-continental ballistic missile indigenously developed by DRDO. Agni-V can strike targets beyond 5,000 km," she said.

Tessy said it was a quantum leap in technology after Agni-IV was launched successfully in November last year. The missile could hit a target 3,000 km away. After the successful launch of Agni-I and Agni-II, it was a learning experience in missile aerodynamics when the initial Agni-III test fire failed, she said. Later when the Agni-IV missile was successfully test fired, people admired our work. On what inspired her to take up defence research, she said it was her fancy for rockets at an early age that inspired her to take up the radar systems elective for her B Tech course. She completed her MTech in guided missiles and when DRDO conducted a test, she emerged as one among the top ten.
Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) executive vice president V N Rajasekharan Pillai was present for the interaction. "Women's education has been the bedrock of the state's developmental success but to achieve a more inclusive growth this talent pool needs to be retained in the industry and academia," he said.
Scientist C G Ramachandran Nair gave a special lecture on the life and work of women scientists. He recalled how women such as Marie Curie, chemist Margot Becke-Goehring, nuclear physicist Lise Meitner, molecular biologist Rosalind Franklin, Indian meterologist Anna Mani and botanist E K Janaki Ammal carried out pioneering scientific work in the face of intense gender bias and prejudices. Dr K.R. Lekha, head of KSCSTE's women scientists cell, said that the council would extend all support for youngsters who want to excel in science.
She said the meeting was in consonance with the theme of this year for International Women's Day which was "Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures".
Thiruvananthapuram: "All that I would say about Agni-V launch is that it can be expected very soon, it is a solid fuelled long range inter-continental ballistic missile. Indigenously developed by DRDO, it can strike targets beyond 5000 km," said Tessy Thomas, project director of Agni from Advanced Systems Lab, Hyderabad.
While reinstating that the purpose of her visit to the city was to interact with school students, she said it was a quantum leap into technology with the successful launch of the Agni-IV missile that broke records for India in November last by hitting a target 3,000 km away off the Balasore test range in Orissa coast.
After the successful launch of Agni-1 and Agni-2, it was a learning experience in missile aerodynamics when the initial Agni-3 test fire failed after it went 30 km up, she said. Based on jet interaction and base flow analysis, it was learnt that reverse flow with nozzle's flexible freedom hot air pervaded in and the system failed. Later when the Agni-IV missile was successfully test fired, people looked at it with surprise for it was like a comet system which was recorded in video cameras.

Agni-V missile to take India into elite nuclear club

Agni-III launchThe Agni range of missiles have been fully developed in India

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With the launch of its locally-developed Agni-V, India has joined a small group of countries - up to now only the nuclear-armed superpowers - with inter-continental range ballistic missiles
A successful test flight of the missile will also strengthen India's nuclear deterrence once it comes into service by 2014-15.
With a range of more than 5,000km (3,100 miles), the Agni-V is capable of delivering a single 1.5-ton warhead deep inside nuclear rival China's territory.
It is 17.5m-tall, solid-fuelled, has three stages and a launch weight of 50 tons. It has cost more than 2.5bn rupees ($480m; £307m) to develop.
India's retaliatory, no-first use strategic deterrence is based on nuclear weapons delivered by sea, air and mobile land-based systems.
These include Agni missile variants with strike ranges from 700km to - it is anticipated with the Agni-V - more than 5,000km.
The maiden test flight of the missile, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has been delayed beyond its original December 2011 deadline.
"Fired from a canister-launch system to provide it greater operational flexibility of being either rail- or road-launched, the Agni-V compares favourably with ICBMs in use by nuclear weapons states like Britain, China, France, Russia and the US," DRDO chief VK Saraswat said.
Briefing reporters at the recently-concluded Defexpo 2012 in Delhi, Mr Saraswat said that advanced technologies incorporated into Agni-V were "far ahead of other countries with few exceptions, like the US".
Missiles available to other nuclear weapons states employ relatively older technology, he said.
Agni-V's innovative technologies include composite rocket motors, guidance ring-laser gyro-based inertial navigation systems, micro-navigation systems and accelerometers to measure the ICBM's acceleration and detect any change in its vehicular motion.
Composites have been extensively used to reduce the ICBM's weight. A third, miniaturised stage has been added to the Agni-III to boost its range from 3,500km to more than 5,000km.
Agni-VAgni-V missile will be capable of hitting targets in China
DRDO scientists said many of the components of the Agni-III and Agni-IV - which were successfully test-fired over the last two years - have been incorporated into the latest missile.
Avinash Chander, director of the DRDO-run Advanced Systems Laboratory, which is closely involved in developing the Agni missiles, says engineering the Agni-V's third stage proved to be a major technological challenge.
"It (the third stage) slopes into the warhead stage and has a conical motor. So far, we have only been doing cylindrical motors and building that was difficult," Mr Chander said in October last year.
DRDO officials say a reduced payload will further enhance the Agni-V's range to beyond 5,000km.
"Agni-V will provide India with much-needed dissuasive deterrence against China which at present it lacks," said former Brigadier Arun Sahgal, joint director of the Institute of National Security Studies in Delhi.
"With Agni-V trials, India's strategic lacunae will to a large extent be overcome," he added.
India, which came off worse in its 1962 border war with China over one of the world's longest-running disputes, had claimed that fear of Beijing's burgeoning nuclear arsenal was responsible for it conducting its five underground nuclear tests in May 1998.
Concern over China's intermediate- and long-range missile capability also hastened India's indigenous programme to develop its own strategic weapons.
Indian military planners remain apprehensive over China's nuclear-capable DF21 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) and its many variants which have ranges of 1,500km-2,250km.
These are deployed across Tibet and south-west China and are capable of striking major Indian cities, including Delhi.
India's arsenal of IRBMs, on the other hand, includes the Agni-I, Agni-II and Agni-III with ranges of between 700-800km, 2,000-2,300km and over 3,500km respectively.
The missiles are being built at Bharat Dynamics Limited in Hyderabad under the DRDO's supervision and operated by the Strategic Forces Command
Created in January 2003, the command is responsible for the management and administration of the country's nuclear weapons stockpile and is part of India's overarching Nuclear Command Authority.
The shorter-range Agni-I and II were developed with nuclear rival Pakistan in mind.
The Agni III, however, is directed at Chinese military and nuclear assets ranged in Tibet, a region of increasing strategic significance to both Delhi and Beijing.
Agni V graphic

BBCThe 'missile woman' behind India's new ICBM

Tessy ThomasMs Thomas says she has never experienced gender discrimination at work

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The media loves calling her Missile Woman - and with good reason.
Tessy Thomas, a scientist from India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), is a rare woman who has played a key role in the making of its most potent long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile, the Agni-V, which was successfully tested on Thursday.
She is thought to be one of the very few women working on strategic nuclear ballistic missiles in the world.
In the male-dominated world of the country's highly secretive missile development programme, Ms Thomas, 49, has stood out ever since she joined the DRDO in 1988.
But the charismatic scientist says she has never faced any anti-female bias at her workplace.
"There is no gender discrimination in technology. If your work is good it automatically stands out. I have never faced any discrimination ever in my workplace," she says.
Ms Thomas, a Roman Catholic, was born to a small-businessman father and a homemaker mother in Alleppey in southern Kerala state.
She grew up near a rocket launching station and says her fascination with rockets and missiles began then.
After finishing school and college in Kerala, she left the state for the first time at the age of 20 to pursue a masters degree in guided missiles in the western Indian city of Pune. It was there she met her future husband, Saroj Kumar, now a commodore in the Indian navy.
Ms Thomas says she was named after Mother Teresa, the late Nobel laureate who worked with the poor in Calcutta.
'Weapons of peace'
So how does she feel about about working on some of the most powerful weapons of mass destruction?
Ms Thomas says she is developing "what are really weapons of peace".
What has been infinitely more difficult, she says, is juggling work and family.
At times, she says, she is torn between her loyalties to the missile programme and her family responsibilities.
It has helped immensely, she believes, that she has had immense support from her husband and son, Tejas, an engineering student who shares his name with India's indigenously developed light combat aircraft, also made by the DRDO.
In a glowing tribute in 2008, The Indian Woman Scientists Association did not forget to mention that "like most women she also does a tight-rope walk between home and career, between being a mother and a scientist who is dedicated to her job.
Agni-V launchMs Thomas has played an important role in developing the Agni-V
"We feel Tessy Thomas serves as a role model and an inspiration for women scientists to achieve their dreams and have their feet planted in both worlds successfully," the group said.
Ms Thomas has said when she joined the DRDO there were very few women working there. Now there are many more working in key weapons programmes.
In January, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Indian Science Congress that Ms Thomas is an example of a "woman making her mark in a traditionally male bastion and decisively breaking the glass ceiling".
Last year, three women scientists won the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award, India's top science prize, compared to 11 from 1958-2010.
Now, the accolades are again coming fast for Ms Thomas - the media also love to call her Agniputri, or one born of fire, after the missiles she has helped develop.
"We are all proud of our country. Agni-V is one of our greatest achievements," she says.
Pallava Bagla is a correspondent for Science magazine and science editor for New Delhi Television (NDTV).

India | Updated Apr 21, 2012 at 10:44am IST

Meet Tessy Thomas, the woman who led team Agni

New Delhi: India's 'Agni Putri', Tessy Thomas, the woman behind the successful test firing of the country's first inter continental ballistic missile Agni-V, says she doesn't mind the nickname given to her, as far as it is with affection.
Speaking exclusively to CNN-IBN, Thomas said that when she started her career as a scientist at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), she had only four female colleagues. She adds gleefully that the numbers have increased now.
Here's the full text of the interview:
CNN-IBN: A woman in a male bastion – the DRDO... She is being called 'Agni Putri'. Project Director Tessy Thomas, who guided a team of scientists to successfully test fire Indian's first ICBM. Many congratulations from the entire CNN-IBN team for your contribution at Wheeler Island. Have you got used to being called 'Agni Putri'?
Tessy Thomas: 'Agni Putri' is fine, I better be called Tessy, that's also fine. It's all in one's way of calling, how does it matter? As far as it is with affection... anything is fine for me.
CNN-IBN: Tessy, we have been saying, you are a rare woman in a male bastion. We believe, when you joined the DRDO, there were only five women scientists. Is that correct and have things changed now?
Tessy Thomas: Yeah, that was the time when we were few in number. But now the numbers have increased, at least three-fold it has increased.
CNN-IBN: As a rocket scientist, I wonder if you watched the media coverage of the launch of Agni-V. It's being held as the national pride, the one that makes India powerful against her neighbours, the deterrence has been spoken about. Do you agree with the way it's been covered or do you believe that there is a little bit of jingoism?
Tessy Thomas: No, I don't think I have to comment on it. It's our media, it's Indian media. I don't think you will do something wrong in covering what Agni has been.
CNN-IBN: Okay, we like to end on a lighter note. How do you like to unwind, I am sure it has been a very stressful time and we have heard badminton and cooking is what you like to do when you are free and have spare time.
Tessy Thomas: Yeah badminton, cooking, TV programme, all are simple.
CNN-IBN: Fair enough. Tessy Thomas, I think you have a hectic few weeks, if not few months. Thanks very much on joining us.
India tests 5,000-km range Agni-V missile
Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) G. Madhavan Nair, holds a miniature of India's first unmanned moon mission 'Chandrayaan-1' after its launch from the Satish Dhawan space centre at Sriharikota, about 100 km north of Chennai, October 22, 2008. REUTERS/Babu/Files
Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) G. Madhavan Nair, holds a miniature of India's first unmanned moon mission 'Chandrayaan-1' after its launch from the Satish Dhawan space centre at Sriharikota, about 100 km north of Chennai, October 22, 2008.
Credit: Reuters/Babu/Files

BANGALORE | Fri Jul 17, 2009