Many scientists involved with the Aditya L-1 mission have given credit to Udupi Ramachandra Rao (1932-2017), ISRO’s former Chairman between 1984 and 1994, for the mission’s success.

But why? The idea of the mission was born in 2006, when a group of scientists of the Astronomical Society of India and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics made a presentation to ISRO, stressing that it would be useful to have a satellite in the Low Earth Orbit, from where it would be observing the sun and taking pictures, whenever the sun is in view.

Dr Dipankar Banerjee, Director, Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, Nainital, and Dr Sankarasubramanian, Principal Scientist, Aditya L-1 mission, say that it was Dr UR Rao, who suggested that the sun-observing coronagraph should not be put in a satellite that is orbiting the earth, but should be put at the Lagrange-1 point, where it would have an uninterrupted view of the sun. With this, the scope of the mission was expanded.

Rao, an alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, guided India’s space program in the initial days. He received the Padma Bhushan for his contributions by the Government of India in 1976.