Reading List

The ISRO Collection: History of India's Space Programme

Curated by Pranav R. Satyanath

The culture of documenting one’s space programme is vibrant within agencies like NASA and ESA. Each agency has published dozens of books, monographs, and briefs that narrate various aspects of its achievements and failures. More importantly, these agencies provide unprecedented access to external researchers to lay down a balanced and critical history of their space programmes. Examples include Robert W. Smith’s The Space Telescope: A Study of Nasa, Science, Technology, and Politics, a brilliant account of the making of the Hubble telescope. Another example is Stacia Zabusky’s Launching Europe – An Ethnography of European Cooperation in Space Science, an immaculate account of how scientists and engineers from various countries across Europe reach consensus on decisions big and small.

Yet, what books do Indians read when they want to know more about ISRO? Unfortunately, ISRO does not maintain a history division like its Western counterparts, which means that precious histories of our space programme could be lost forever. But for those entrenched in our country’s space ecosystem, the list is relatively easy to make. A classic like Gopal Raj’s Reach for the Stars: The Evolution of India’s Rocket Programme provides an unparalleled view into ISRO’s history. Books like these, however, are rare to come by. Thankfully, all hope is not lost. While official ISRO histories are sporadic, several former members of ISRO have penned their personal accounts in books. While some of these are popular among space enthusiasts, many remain hidden away in quaint corners of libraries or perhaps in the depths of the internet. The list provided below is my attempt to assemble all books written by former members of ISRO, along with books with a semi-official status. Readers are welcome to add any books that I might have missed.

Vikram Sarabhai, Science Policy and National Development (New Delhi: Macmillan, 1974).

Vikram Sarabhai (ed), Management and Development: A Collection of Papers (New Delhi: Viking, 1974).

Raja Ramanna, Years of Pilgrimage, an Autobiography (New Delhi: Viking, 1991).

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam with Arun Tiwari, Wings Of Fire: An Autobiography (Chennai: Universities Press, 1999).

Gopal Raj, Reach for the Stars: The Evolution of India's Rocket Programme (New Delhi: Viking, 2000).

U. Sankaran, The Economics of India's Space Programme: An Exploratory Analysis (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007).

S.K. Das, Touching Lives: The Little Known Triumphs of the Indian Space Programme (New Delhi: Penguin, 2007).

P. Radhakrishnan and P.V. Manoranjan Rao, A Brief History of Rocketry in ISRO (New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2012).

U.R. Rao, India’s Rise as a Space Power(New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

George Joseph, India's Journey towards Excellence in Building Earth Observation Camera (Chennai: Notion Press, 2014).

Rajaram Nagappa, Evolution of Solid Propellant Rockets in India (New Delhi: Defence Research and Development Organisation,2014).

A. Sivathanu Pillai, Success Mantra of BrahMos: The Path Unexplored (New Delhi: Pentagon Press 2014).

K .Radhakrishnan with Nilanjan Routh, My Odyssey: Memoirs of the Man behind the Mangalyaan Mission (New Delhi: Penguin, 2016).

B.N.Suresh and V.P. Balagangadharan (eds), From Fishing Hamlet to Red Planet: India's Space Journey (New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2015).

R. Aravamudan with Gita Aravamudan, ISRO: A Personal History (New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2017).

P.V. Manoranjan Rao, B. N. Suresh and V. P. Balagangadharan, Even Upwards: ISRO in Images (Chennai: Universities Press, 2019).

B.N. Suresh (ed), Space and Beyond: Professional Voyage of K. Kasturirangan (Singapore: Springer, 2021).

Abraham E. Muthunayagam, From Space to Sea: My ISRO Journey and Beyond(New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2022).

Prem Shanker Goel, Making of a Satellite Centre: The Genesis of ISRO’s URSC (Singapore: Springer, 2022).

G. Madhavan Nair, Rocketing Through the Skies : An Eventful Life at ISRO (New Delhi: Rupa, 2023).

Suresh Gangotra, India Rising: Memoir of a Scientist (New Delhi: Penguin, 2023).

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