Bengaluru: Internationally-renowned space scientist Prof. U.R. Rao passed away here early this morning, leaving the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) bereft of the experience of a man who has been a part of all its launches in one capacity or the other. He was 85.
A resident of Indiranagar, Prof. Rao is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter. Rao, who breathed his last at about 2.30 am, was hospitalised earlier this year with a heart ailment.
Many dignitaries including Chief Minister Siddharamaiah paid their last respects to the departed scientist at his residence. Last rites will be held later in the day today at Hebbal crematorium in Bengaluru.
The former Isro Chief was serving as the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Physical Research Laboratory and the Chancellor of the Indian Institute of Science and Technology at Thiruvananthapuram.
He held several top positions over the years, including at foreign Universities. He was a recipient of 10 international awards and many national awards.
After Satish Dhawan, he served as the Chairman of Isro for about 10 years between 1984-1994.
Profile: Born in Adampur village in Udupi, Prof. Rao was continuously associated with India’s space programme working with people like MGK Menon (who recently passed away), Satish Dhawan and Vikram Sarabhai.
From Aryabhatta to the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), Prof. Rao worked with the space agency on several of its projects.
He has published more than 350 scientific and technical papers covering cosmic rays, interplanetary physics, high energy astronomy, space applications and satellite and rocket technology and authored many books.
He was the recipient of D.Sc (Hon. Causa) Degree from over 25 Universities, including University of Bologna, the oldest University in Europe. He was conferred the Honorary Doctorate by the University of Mysore also.
Prof. U.R. Rao, who had a tenure at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was the first Indian to be inducted into the prestigious “The 2016 IAF Hall of Fame” by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) during the closing ceremony of the International Astronautical Congress-2016 at Guadlajara, Mexico in Sept.
He was looking forward to India’s maiden launch to planet Venus in the coming years.
In January this year, he was conferred the Padma Vibhushan. Interestingly, Prof. Rao had once said, “I thought I will get this (Padma Vibhushan) posthumously.
PM condoles: In a post on Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he is saddened by Professor Rao’s death. “Saddened by demise of renowned scientist, Professor UR Rao. His remarkable contribution to India’s space programme will never be forgotten,” PM Modi wrote.
Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted, “Dr UR Rao, former Chairman @isro, Ist Indian in the Satellite Hall of Fame & in International Astronautics Fed/n, is no more. Condolences.”