History is made as India launches first space mission

Standing at the bottom of his garden, cup of coffee in hand, Gopinath Garirao, 63, peered into the dawn sky and marvelled as the Indian rocket streaked into orbit, fuelled by the hopes of a billion people.

When he was born in 1945 India was still under British colonial rule and more than two years away from the bloody chaos of Partition.

He joined the Indian Railways as an engineer in 1969 – the year that Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon – and worked there until he retired in 2005, on a pension of £100 a month. He has lived through one war with China and three with Pakistan.

There he was, standing outside with his wife, Kalavati Bai, watching the launch of Chandrayaan1 – India’s first unmanned mission to the Moon – from his own back garden.

I felt very proud to be an Indian,” he told The Times from his home in Sullurpet, six miles from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh.

“In the 20th century the race to the Moon was fought between the erstwhile Cold War adversaries,” said Pallava Bagla, the author of Destination Moon, a history of ISRO.

“In the 21st century those gladiators have been left behind and the Asian nations, on the upsurge, have decided to take their place,” he said. “Chandrayaan is a scientific mission, but it also has implications for global geopolitics. It’s like a coming-out party for India.”

Thoughtful, entertaining article. So far, Rupert Murdoch not only hasn’t screwed-up the TIMES, I think he’s learned something from them about how to manage an online presence. RTFA.

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