Kayala: The Story Of How India First Rocket Was Transported On A Bicycle in 1963

Photo : tkayala.com

You must have heard of this :

‘When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked Rakesh Sharma astronaut how their country looked from space, he famously replied, “Saare Jaha Se Achcha Hindustan Hamara”. How many of you are aware of that the first Indian rocket was transported on a bicycle? If I’m not wrong probably a few. In this article, we’ll discover some amazing and shocking facts regarding the fascinating story of India’s first rocket launch.

Here’s how India’s first rocket reached the stars in 1963:

The plot which now firms India’s renowned Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre – India witnessed its first rocket launch, in 1963, was formerly a Catholic church.

You must be wondering, how did a church transform into a space center?

Time for a flashback the too early 1960s when a small village called Thumba in Trivandrum by Dr. Vikram Sarabhai was carefully chosen as the perfect site for a rocket launching station. The location he had considered as a prospective launch site accommodated a church.

First rocket carried by ISRO employees | Photo : tkayala.com

On Earth’s magnetic equator, a fictional track for the easterly flow of current passed through St. Mary Magdalene Church. This had enthused Dr. Sarabhai’s attention.

It was one pleasant evening when Dr. Sarabhai along with his then colleague Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam approached Dr. Peter Bernard Pereira, the then bishop of Trivandrum, regarding procuring the church for a rocket launch.

Just imagine how would the bishop had felt?  Instead of giving them a definite answer, the bishop invited the scientists to attend the Sunday mass hours.

This is what the bishop told the congregation: “My children, I have a famous scientist with me who wants our church and the place I live in the work of space science and research. Science seeks the truth that enriches human life. The higher level of religion is spirituality. In short, what I am doing and what Vikram is doing are alike – both spirituality and science seek the Almighty’s blessings for a scientific mission?”

The Bishop could have directly said  ‘yes’ to Vikram, what was the need to go through this long procedure? We think it was to build a bridge between science and spirituality.

Once the required permissions were made, the villagers shifted to a different village that had its own brand new church. As owed paperwork completed, our first rocket launcher was built on the garden before St. Mary Magdalene Church.

Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station on St Mary Magdalene Church took shape.

The first laboratory was in the prayer cell where people use to confess and the bishop’s room served as the drawing office.

It is said that the church’s cattle shed was converted into the laboratory. Where cattle used to simply sit, scientists sit and worked.

Photo : tkayala.com

Nike-Apache on bullock cart, Rocket on a bicycle

India’s glorious history of rocket science. Similar to a sag of grain and a gas cylinder, rocket cylinder was carried on a bicycle carriage where it grabbed its maiden steps. Hope it was tied properly! Have you seen bullock cart carrying people in villages? Wonder same way parts of the NASA-made rocket, Nike-Apache, were carried on a bullock cart. I’m still thinking what would have been on the bullock’s mind used to carry kgs weight suddenly carrying tons!

Also, not just parts but India’s first satellite, ‘Apple’ was carried in a bullock-cart as well. It was back in 1981.

ISRO Scientists Carry India’s First Communication APPLE Satellite on Bullock Cart | Photo ; Pinterest

After much labor, on the eve of November 21, 1963, Nike-Apache blasted off into space from the garden facing St Mary Magdalene Church.

If you’re still thinking what ‘Kayala’ stands for? The maiden rocket launched was named ‘Kayala’.

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Preview Photo : tkayala.com

Rishabh Kumar
Rishabh Kumar

A soon to be tech graduate who has a knack of writing and a sack full of dreams.

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