CHENNAI: He was popularly known as the ‘Missile Man’, but though unknown to many, former President APJ Abdul Kalam was one of the key figures who inspired the Indian Space Research Organisation into taking up its missions to Moon and Mars.
Paying tributes to the veteran, ISRO director Mayilsami Annadurai said it was Kalam who inspired him during the Moon and Mars mission.
“My first interaction with him was during an international conference where we discussed Chandrayaan. Dr Kalam then said ‘Find a way on how can you go to Moon’,” recalled Annadurai.
“Although he could not make it to Sriharikota during the Moon mission, I invited him again on November 14, the day the satellite reached the moon. And he was there,” he said.
However, there was a twist. “Rather than celebrating the success, he just asked ‘What next’. That resulted in the Mars Mission. For that mission, he was at Sriharikota a day before the launch,” recounted the space scientist. On a personal note, Mayilsamy rued that Kalam, who promised to visit him in Bangalore after he assumed office, will now no more be visiting him.
Meanwhile, mourning the death of his ‘good friend’ whom he had known for the past 50 years, Srinivasan, one of the brains behind the Indian nuclear programme, said Kalam was the coordinator for Pokharan II tests as DRDO wanted to test the launch vehicles. He was with DRDO then, said Srinivasan.
He also recounted the memories he shared with the former President as a scientist, and said Kalam was two years his junior when he joined Department of Atomic Energy, Mumbai.
“He later went on to do great things in the space department and was intrumental in developing the satellite launch vehicle although his initial experiment was a failure. This failure was turned into a success and now we have the Agni missiles developed by him,” said Srinivasan.
Srinivasan said Kalam never lost his temper and was a man of vision. He was a vegetarian and his favourite meal was idli, curd rice and sambar. “He invited my wife and I to Rashtrapati Bhavan and showed us the garden,” he recalled.
Prabhat Kumar, former director of Bhavini, said Kalam showed great interest in development of 500 megawatt Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) in Kalpakkam, which is an important milestone for India’s three-stage nuclear power programme.
“He had visited the PFBR complex twice. Once when he was President and once after he laid down his office,” Kumar recalled.