SRIHARIKOTA : Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a charm offensive at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) at Sriharikota, after witnessing the successful launch of the PSLV-C23 on Monday, by praising ISRO’s labours to the skies. He also underlined the social component of the Indian space programme and sought to extend the neighbourhood diplomacy of his swearing-in ceremony, by appealing to ISRO to develop a SAARC satellite for use by all the countries in India’s neighbourhood.
PSLV-C23 performed with the clockwork precision that has now come to be taken for granted. It injected five satellites — the French SPOT-7 (714 kg), German AISAT (14 kg), Canadian NLS 7.1 and NLS 7.2 (15 kg each) and the Singaporean VELOX-1 (7kg), with a total mass of 765 kg. However, the success and precision of the launch would soon become footnotes of the day, with the new Prime Minister hogging the centerstage. Also present at the launch were Andhra Pradesh Governor E S L Narasimhan, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister
M Venkaiah Naidu and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh.
Modi watched the buzz in the Command Centre attentively, with SDSC Director MYS Prasad sitting next to him explaining the process, even as ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan took his usual place in front of a monitor to track the progress of the mission.
Modi expressed wonder and pride at ISRO’s home-grown trajectory over the years, saying the first rockets had been constructed in humble sheds and recalling photographs of these rockets being transported to launch sites on bicycles. He also expressed happiness at having met four generations of ISRO scientists at the command centre, starting from former ISRO Chairmen U R Rao and K Kasturirangan to the present ISRO brass and younger scientists.
When he was done with his speech, Modi received a rousing ovation from the enthusiastic ISRO gathering. He was introduced to key members of the team by Radhakrishnan.
But at the end of the line, Modi surprised everyone by casually walking across to shake hands with mid-level and junior ISRO staff, who had not been lined up originally.
Modi continued strolling about casually, shaking hands with everyone he came across. He even made it a point to shake the hands of each of the security personnel posted at the door, right up to the point where he had to finally get into his car and leave.
What he left behind was a bunch of gushing scientists, who expressed appreciation over the fact that Modi had visited a number of facilities at the spaceport, stayed overnight there and made the right kind of noises about India’s space programme.