Kottayam: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was initially doubtful about Satish Dhawan heading India's space programme after Vikram Sarabhai died, says a new book by senior space scientist V.P. Balagangadha-ran.
The book Indian Bahirakasha Gaveshana Charithram in India says the PM was angry at Prof Dhawan rejecting the proposal for taking over as the director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the secretary of the science and technology ministry and advisor to the defence minister.
However, Prof M.G.K. Menon, a scientific advisor to the PM who headed the ISRO briefly, prevailed upon her and she agreed to his demands.
The director of the Ind-ian Institute of Science (IIS), Bangalore, he was on a sabbatical then, teac-hing at California Instit-ute of Technology (CALTEC). He expressed the willingness to take over as ISRO chairman after the PM spoke to him on the phone. He said he would return after completing his teaching assi-gnment in three months.
After coming back, he discussed the offer with JRD Tata and R. Choksy and decided to take up the mantle while doubling as the IIS director.
He wanted the PM to redefine the space research on the lines of atomic research. The PM discussed it with Prof Menon and nuclear scientist BD Nag Chowdhury and the space commission and a space research department were born.
With this, the ISRO took a new direction, freeing from the Atomic Energy Commission.
Mr Dhawan's conditions for the takeover included the establishment of the secretariat of the space research centre in Bangalore since he was also the director of IIS.
He became the first chairman of the ISRO and the Space Commission and secretary to the government from 1972 to 1984.