The man who raised India’s launch vehicle project to world level
   Date :19-Sep-2021

loud thinking_1 &nbs
By Vijay Phanshikar :
DR Vasant Gowarikar could not say ‘No’ to a personal request from his iconic role-model. So, in deference to that appeal, he joined the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Space Centre at Thumba in 1967 as Propellant Engineer. Though he did not foresee what future had in store for him, his mentor Dr. Vikram Sarabhai knew that the young man was on the path of creating history for India’s space programme. The rest is history -- in a real sense, as they say it. For, Dr. Vasant Gowarikar went on to become the Director of what came to be known as Dr Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre 12 years later, and then climbed to the coveted position of ISRO’s Director as well. But these details rarely tell the actual story that got written in his name.
For, in time, Dr. Gowarikar himself became a role-model for many young scientists and helped the country to rise to a position of global leadership in launch vehicle technology. It was under his leadership that the VSSC made a successful launch of the SLV3, that stood on the shoulders of critical solid fuel technology -- which made the launch vehicle programme totally indigenous and as good as any other in the world. It was as part of this effort that Dr. Gowarikar led the process of creating the iconic Solid Propellant Booster Plant located on a land admeasuring 5,000-plus acres. That project became India’s signature, too, in advanced research on all strategic raw materials. His leadership in various research projects also made his name synonymous with accurate weather prediction science as well, which was fully indigenous.
An additional responsibility of Dr. Gowarikar was in the form of Secretary of the Science and Technology Department and Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister. Subsequently, Dr. Gowarikar was appointed as Vice Chancellor of Pune University, and became President of Marathi Vidnyan Parishad. But one of his most important contributions was the compilation of the Fertilizer Encyclopedia in 2008 that featured 4,500 entries detailing the chemical composition of fertilizers, and all information right from their manufacturing and application to their economic and environmental considerations. But when he was in England in his young days, Dr. Vasant Gowarikar had a great career laid out for him as a scientist and researcher. Dr Gowarikar did his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from Birmingham University, England. His collaboration with Dr. F. H. Garner during the doctoral research resulted in the Garner-Gowarikar theory, which was a novel analysis of heat and mass transfer between solids and fluids. All this core work and wonderful leadership of the country’s signature research projects earned Padma Shri in 1984 and Padma Bhushan in 2008 for Dr. Gowarikar. He was also decorated with the famed Aryabhat Award by the Astronautical Society of India. When Dr. Gowarikar passed away on January 2, 2015, at the age of 81, his story had already become known in every Indian home.