CHENNAI:They are not very different, N Valarmathi, senior scientist at ISRO, and late president late APJ Abdul Kalam, in whose name the State Government recently instituted an award, the first of which she received from Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa during the Independence Day celebrations here on Saturday.
Like the late president who came from humble beginnings, Valarmathi, too, hails from the backward Ariyalur district, where she was born to a retired block development officer, Natarajan, and his wife, Ramaseetha. She had her schooling at Nirmala Girls Higher secondary school in Tamil medium. Later, she completed her Pre-University Course at the Government Arts College, Ariyalur and then moved to Government College of Technology, Coimbatore. She received her ME from Anna University. Now, a veteran with over three decades at India’s space agency, Valarmathi was the project director of RISAT-1 mission, the first of its kind and heaviest satellitte that the country launched from its spaceport at Sriharikota in 2012.
“I am very happy to receive this award. It is an honour for the ISRO and I dedicate this award to the organisation. Instituting such awards would encourage the youth to achieve more, and I thank the Chief Minister for this measure,” an unassuming Valarmathi told mediapersons after receiving the award.
The APJ Abdul Kalam award was instituted by the Chief Minister on July 31 in honour of the former president. It carries `5 lakh, a gold medal and a certificate of appreciation.
Valarmathi has been working with the ISRO for the past 32 years. After being part of missions including Insat 2A, IRS IC, IRS ID, TES etc, she became involved in the indigenously made remote sensing satellite, RISAT - I, in 2002.
The remote sensing satellite, an all-weather microwave satellite that is the country’s unblinking eye in the sky, was a crucial and prestigious project for the space agency, as there are only a few among the elite club of countries with space capabilities who have the technology. The project took about a decade to complete, by which time Valarmathi grew in the ranks from deputy project director and associate project director, before she was promoted to the post of Project Director for RISAT-I.
When the PSLV carrying the heaviest satellite ever made lifted off early morning on April 26, 2012, veterans of Indian science, including professor Yashpal and UR Rao, took special care to highlight to the nation that it was a woman who headed the project, only the second time in ISRO’s history. On Saturday, as she collected the prestigious award instituted in honour of one of the most loved names in recent Indian history, Valarmathi remained as unassuming as Kalam himself, preferring to credit everything to the organisation she belonged.