As seen in a live broadcast, the mission director updated the progress of the rocket in its pre-determined trajectory to the audience, and the anticipation on the faces of those at India’s spaceport in Sriharikota, on the eastern shore in Andhra Pradesh was visible. When the mission director announced that the spacecraft had detached from the launcher and entered lunar orbit, applause broke out, and the unassuming chief of India’s space agency, ISRO, dressed in simple attire got up to hug every scientist present.
The story of a boy born into a poor farmer’s family from Takaranvila village in Kanyakumari district on the southern-most tip of Tamil Nadu, to the hot seat of one of the world’s leading space agencies, is not lacking in hardships for Sivan and is full of grit and determination.
Sivan attended a village government school in Tamil and then went to college in the neighbouring Nagarcoil to complete his school education. He was the first person in his entire family to graduate. After his graduation, Sivan was accepted to the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology Aeronautic Engineering course and later received a post-graduate degree from Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and finally studied at MIT.
“Studies or employment, one should be cent per cent committed. I am thankful to my parents, who despite their financial backwardness encouraged me in studies, the teachers from the primary school in my village to MIT, my seniors and colleagues – I am indebted,” Dr Sivan told reporters after taking over the Chairmanship of ISRO in January 2018, after joining in 1983.
Sivan was instrumental in the mission to send 104 satellites at once developing the indigenous Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle MK II. After the successful launch of Chandrayaan-2, his eyes are now set beyond the moon, to the country’s first crewed mission to space and Gaganyaan and Aditya L1 to the Sun, among others.