The article on 50 years of the Indian space programme and the launch of India’s first rocket on November 21, 1963 (Nov. 21) kindled my sweet memory of that day. I was 13 then and, along with my father, J.V. Narayana, an astronomer, and other scientists, was in front of the administrative building of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Kodaikanal, to witness the first-ever spectacular launch from Thumba, and its trajectory. It was a nail-biting moment as we scanned the southern hemisphere. At about 6.30 p.m. or so, we observed a golden yellow mass-like streak piercing the sky. All the scientists clapped in joy. They patted me on the back and conferred on me the title “junior astronomer.” I asked my father why the smoke was yellow instead of white and he told me that the mass contained sodium vapour. When the sun’s rays passed though it, it dispersed a yellow glow. Now, at 63, I thank The Hindu for helping me recall that moment.

J.V.N.K. Subramanyam,


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