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After BBC World Service's hit podcast series 13 Minutes to the Moon--which was based on the Apollo 11 team members where they recalled the mission’s trials and triumphs, India too has a story to tell. Cricket commentator and journalist Harsha Bhogle presents a brand new podcast, ‘Mission Isro’, on Spotify on ISRO’s journey--right from the days of Dr Vikram Sarabhai efforts behind putting together a young team at Physical
Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad, to the first rocket launch in Kerala where St Mary Magdalene Church became the mission centre --the bishop’s house serving as the office for scientist and later president of India APJ Abdul Kalam.
When India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and scientist Vikram Sarabhai established the Indian National Committee for Space Research in 1962, space ventures looked risky business with no clear benefits. Mission ISRO narrates this unlikely story of how a fledgling nation emerging from the clutches of the colonial powers and passing through a painful partition became part of the elite space club. India’s 2013 Mars Orbiter Mission or Mangalyaan, was the culmination of it’s an achievement and the announcement to the world that India has arrived. The country’s first interplanetary spacecraft was memorialized on the new Rs2,000 banknote in 2016. Bhogle mentions in the preview of the show how space proved an important tool in modernizing India.
“We didn’t have the resources for it, nor did we have the training and expertise in space technology,” Bhogle recalls on the pilot episode. Thumba, a fishing village in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, “remarkably became the location of the space programme and we carried our rockets on bicycles and bullock carts! Within the first four decades of India’s existence, we actually managed to build and launch our own rockets, satellites and satellite launching vehicles.”
In the preview episode Bhogle says that he was just 23-years-old, and was working as a commentator for All India Radio, when astronaut Rakesh Sharma broke free from the grasp of gravity to become the first Indian in space. He recalls how Sharma spoke from the Soviet space station to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the Doordarshan TV studio. Mishra’s response to Gandhi’s question about how India looked from space is immortal: “Saare jahan se accha”—”better than the entire world” from the Urdu poem by Muhammad Iqbal.
The 12-part show is produced by Mumbai-based content development platform All Things Small, the series weaves historic clips and interviews with Bhogle’s narration.
Apart from occasional launches and achievements, India’s space programmes are hardly discussed or written about. Unlike NASA and other European countries, there has been a dearth of space technology reporting. Narayan Prasad’s podcast, NewSpace India, attempts to fill this lacuna in Indian space discourse. Prasad interviews experts which include authors, researchers, scientists and lawyers-- to shed light on areas which are hardly discussed in comprehensive space programs. Some of the scientists and experts Prasad has interviewed include Arup Dasgupta, former ISRO scientist, Vasudevan Mukunth, the science editor of The Wire, and Rakesh Sasibhushan, the Chairman and Managing Director of Antrix Corporation. An article in The Hindu has claimed that NewSpace India podcasts, launched a few months ago has been downloaded 650 times. About 40% of the podcast’s audience is overseas. The fascination is seen in students.