It might be quite interesting and surprising to know, but India’s space program actually commenced at a church located in Thumba, a small village known only for fishing and a bit far from Thiruvanathanapuram airport in Kerala.
The story began back in 1962, when the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was established. Homi Bhabha, then the father of India's nuclear program, along with Vikram Sarabhai, took into consideration number of sites situated in Kerala to construct a rocket station. After long discussion they both finalized Thumba as the appropriate place.
However there was a small problem. It was the natives of this place, the fisherfolks, who needed to be convinced somehow, since they were emotionally attached to this place, especially the St Mary Magadelene's Church. But it turned out to be not that a big deal since they were easily convinced, when Bhabha spoke to all of them at a Sunday congregation, elaborating on the benefits of a space program.
This moment forth, the small Thumba village became the mainstay for the team of rocket scientists, including A P J Abdul Kalam. The villagers who were relocated, were really supportive of it and their small place of worship became, Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station.
In November 1963, the first sounding rocket, Nike Apache supplied by NASA, was launched, following which many sounding rockets that examine the atmosphere, lifted off from Thumba including those from the US, Russia, Japan, France and Germany.
Thumba today has become a modern station, from where sounding rockets take off very often.
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