ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan retired on Wednesday carrying the crowning glory of the much-hailed India's mission to Mars.
Indian space scientists bid a 'sombre' farewell describing Radhakrishnan an "iconic leader" as his exit left the space agency at what ISRO on its Facebook called "at its most glorified pedestal ever."
The tenure of Radhakrishnan as ISRO chief, Secretary, Department of Space and Chairman, Space Commission was extended by four months in August this year till December 31, 2014 on "functional grounds and in public interest." Radhakrishnan, a recipient of Padma- Bhushan, the third highest civilian award, was recently chosen as one of the top ten scientific personalities in 2014 by Nature Science Journal.
Radhakrishnan hails from Irinjalakuda in Thrissur district, Kerala. After his studies from Christ College, Irinjalakuda, he completed his B.Sc. degree in Electrical Engineering in 1970 from the Government Engineering College, Thrissur. He started his career in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as an Avionics Engineer at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Trivandrum, in 1971 and rose through the ranks, in brisk space. Radhakrishnan was handpicked by Professor Satish Dhawan - the then Chairman of ISRO, to control and monitor the Budget and Economic Analysis activities at the ISRO headquarters.
He never looked back since then and the acme of his achievement was the "Mangalyaan" mission to the red planet. India made space history on September 24 when its low-cost Mars spacecraft was successfully placed in orbit around the red planet in its very first attempt, breaking into an elite club of three nations.
The Rs 450-crore MOM Mangalyaan is the cheapest inter- planetary mission that, at just US $74 million, costing less than the estimated US $100 million budget of the sci-fi blockbuster "Gravity" and a tenth of NASA's Mars mission Maven, entered the Martian orbit on September 22. European, American and Russian probes have managed to orbit or land on the planet, but after several attempts.
The MOM feat gave a boost to India's global standing in space. Mangalyaan was named among the best inventions of 2014 by TIME magazine which described it as a technological feat that will allow India to flex its "interplanetary muscles."