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  India's "Missile Man" Abdul Kalam (1931-2015)

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Author Topic:   India's "Missile Man" Abdul Kalam (1931-2015)
Robert Pearlman

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posted 07-30-2015 12:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
India's former president Abdul Kalam, who was a career scientist with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), died on Monday (July 27). He was 83.

Kalam was known as the "Missile Man of India" for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology. From Wikipedia:

In 1963-64, he visited NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and Wallops Flight Facility. Between the 1970s and 1990s, Kalam made an effort to develop the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and SLV-III projects, both of which proved to be successful.

As of 2014, the PSLV has launched 71 spacecraft (31 Indian and 40 foreign satellites) into a variety of orbits. Some notable payloads launched by PSLV include India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe and the Mars Orbiter Mission.

ISRO former chairman G. Madhavan Nair shared his memories of Kalam in an column for the Indian Express.
I will not classify Kalam as a pure scientist. He was not the kind of person to write a thesis or solve equations and things like that. But he knew the critical issues in development programmes, whom to tap — a senior scientist, technician or professor. He had high respect for the professors and teaching staff at our leading science institutions and always used to tap their wisdom. He was able to synthesise the knowledge of hundreds of people to solve a single problem. There is practically no other person who has successfully completed so many missions in such a short time.

When we were thinking of the moon mission and had completed the design of the moon probe, we made a presentation to him at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Kalam asked what we were going to do about putting an Indian flag on the moon. That is how we conceived the Moon Impact Probe, which put the Indian flag on the moon on November 14, 2008.

He always said success was something to be celebrated, but he also believed that failure was something that you must concentrate all your energies on resolving. When the first PSLV launch failed, he was scientific advisor to the government. He took a flight to Sriharikota and spent a whole day and night with me to help us overcome the setback and chalk out a recovery plan. He believed that failure was a teacher. This was the kind of philosophical approach he brought to problem-solving. He had the knack of putting his finger on the issue and pointing you in the right direction. There were numerous occasions when we were groping in the dark and a few innocent questions from him would get us thinking and steer us in the right direction.


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