APJ Abdul Kalam: Why He is Known As the ‘Missile Man’ of India

APJ Abdul Kalam, better known as the “Missile Man” of India took his last breath yesterday in Meghalaya after he collapsed while presenting a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong. He was declared brought dead when rushed to a hospital.

abdul kalam

The former President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam delivering key note address on “Strength Respects Strength”, at the 5th Admiral A.K. Chatterji Memorial Lecture, in Kolkata on April 11, 2015.

It was a shock for the whole nation to receive the news of the death of the 11th President of India, just two months shy of his 84th birthday. Known not just as the “Missile Man” of India, Kalam was also called a “People’s President” – who devoted his entire life to the common people of his country.

As India mourns for his death, we look back to reminisce the great deeds he did for the country that earned him a Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor and most significantly the love and respect of the people.

1. After being transferred to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in 1969 that Kalam believed was one of the greatest achievements of his life, he became a prominent contributor to India’s very first homegrown satellite mission. As the project director, he found success in introducing Rohini satellite of the Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III), close to earth’s orbit in 1980. This move saw India, becoming an elite part of the Space Club.

2. At Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), he contributed in the development of AGNI missile series – the long range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, of which four are operational while AGNI V is still under testing and AGNI VI is under development. He also took charge to develop PRITHVI missile series – a short range surface-to-surface ballistic missile, of which three have been created – for army, air force and naval version, respectively.

3. In the 1970s, Kalam directed two projects namely “Project Devil” and “Project Valiant”, which were not approved by the then Union Cabinet and were dropped in 1980 but the technology later helped in building the PRITHVI series of missiles. These projects utilized the same technology as that of Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV).

4. His most commendable and memorable contribution was in the development of Pokhran-II series, which comprised of five nuclear bomb test explosions. These bombs were labeled as Shakti – I, Shakti – II, and so on with Shakti-I being a fusion bomb and the other four as fission bombs. Several big countries such as the United States and Japan imposed sanctions for the mission.


APJ Abdul Kalam (far right) and the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the Pokhran Nuclear Test Explosion location. Photo Credit: Images99.com

5. In the early 1980s, Kalam contributed in the manufacture of a light-weight artificial limb, which weighed only 400 grams compared to 4-kg wooden legs which were in vogue during the time to save especially children with physical disabilities to walk better. He used the same technology he used in the Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) to prepare this limb.

6. Along with Bhupathiraju Somaraju who is a cardiologist and the chairman of the Care Hospitals, Hyderabad, Kalam prepared a “coronary stent” in 1998 namely “Kalam-Raju Stent”. A coronary stent is a device that streams blood to the heart, during a coronary heart disease. In 2012, the pair created a tablet computer too to help in the health care of the rural regions of the country and named it as “Kalam-Raju Tablet”.

APJ Abdul Kalam had unveiled the “Vision 2020,” through which he wanted to see India becoming a developed nation by 2020. He was a great man and an inspirer in the true sense of the word, known from his many motivating quotes. But “a dream is not that which you see while sleeping, it is something that does not let you sleep,” is the one that correlates to his mega mission of “Vision 2020”.

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