Twenty-five years ago, on July 18, 1980, India joined the space club with the successful flight of the 22-meter-tall, 17-tonne Satellite Launch Vehicle – 3. In an interview, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who was the SLV-3 project director, look back at the successes of India’s space programme and presents a wish-list for the future.
Some years ago, at a meeting of the Madras Institute of Technology Alumni Association, you said that as an engineering student there it was a joy to study the structure of an aircraft. How did you get interested in aircraft and rocketry?
It all started when I was a 10-year-old boy. I was studying in the 5th class at the Rameswaram Panchayat Elementary School. We had a teacher. His name was Sivasubramania Iyer. He used to teach geography, science and hygiene. One day, he was teaching us how birds flew. He drew a diagram on the blackboard, depicting the wings, the tail and the body structure with the head. He explained how birds created the lift and flew. He also explained to us how birds changed direction while flying. Many of us did not understand it. I said I did not.
Our teacher said he would take all of us to the seashore. That evening, the whole class was at the seashore at Rameswaram. He showed how the seabirds flew, how the seagulls flew. He indicated to us what the birds did to flap their wings and what their tails did. He explained to us all those things. The way Siavasubramania Iyer explained, I understood it. But the important thing was from that day he injected into me the dream of something to do with flight. I did not know flight science. But he definitely injected into me how to dream, to have a dream, to fly high, and secondly, to do something later with the science of flight… the seeding. That is how it started.
Like this, anybody has dreams like fly high?
(Continue on August 5th )