Former ISRO scientist talks about his connection with MGR and Kalam

Chennai: While it is most often said that movies have a bad influence on people, former ISRO scientist R R Elangovan feels otherwise. He says his interest in space was kindled after watching the movie Kalaiarasi (1963) starring former Chief Minister M G Ramachandran.

“I think that was the first space based alien movie to be made in Tamil cinema and I was fascinated by it. I am a hardcore MGR fan and was instantly attracted to the theme of the film following which I aspired to become a scientist,” he says.

He says his passion further increased after coming to know about former President A P J Abdul Kalam.

“We are from neighbouring villages and shared the same workspace for five years from 1978 to 1982. I was fascinated and inspired by him even before I met him,” he says.

Elangovan, a native of Ramanathapuram and at present a resident of Velacheri has 48 years of experience in research and development in the field of aerospace engineering and satellite communication.

Speaking about his connection with Kalam, he says, one of Kalam’s schoolmates was his teacher in school. “Our teacher used to talk so high about Kalam and his achievements that I started respecting him, even before knowing him,” he recalls.

“After completing school, I joined MIT and took the same department as Kalam. However, my first direct interaction with him came only after I joined ISRO in 1978. He was my project manager for the SLV project. He was a taskmaster. He spoke less and was always indulged in work. He was very intelligent and focused. He had answers for all doubts raised by the engineers. He was a man of few words and more of action during his ISRO days,” he adds.

Elangovan says, he happened to meet Kalam a few times, post their days at ISRO and adds that he cherished those moments. “I met him 1.5 months before his demise and was shocked by his death. I am sure he would have inspired more people if he had lived longer,” he states.

Talking about his achievements, Elangovan, who is at present the head of aerospace department in a private higher education institution in the city, says, “I worked as a scientist/engineer for 17 years (1978-1996) in the design analysis, testing and development of satellite launch vehicles like SLV, ASLV, PSLV, GSLV and sounding rockets at Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, Thiruvananthapuram.”

He says he was the project manager for GSLV core team and carried out the management and integration activities related to different branches of aerospace engineering including integration and launching of Satellite launch vehicle.

“I have also participated in many conferences, seminar, workshops and international events.”

Talking about his future plans, he says, he wants to write books based on aerospace technology which will be helpful and easily understood by the students. Elangovan is all set to receive the best achiever’s award instituted by the Chennai Social and Cultural Academy and Lions Club of Chennai Town on 1 January.

Balasubramani Muniyandi