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Top French civilian honour for ISRO scientist VR Lalithambika

In a momentous recognition of her significant contributions to space cooperation between France and India, Lalithambika VR, a distinguished scientist and former Director of the Human Spaceflight Programme at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was honored with the prestigious ‘Légion d’Honneur.’ The award was conferred upon her by Thierry Mathou, the Ambassador of France to India, in a ceremony held in Bengaluru.

Lalithambika’s Role in Space Cooperation

Lalithambika VR, aged 60, played a pivotal role in fostering collaboration between the French National Space Agency CNES and ISRO. She received acclaim for her instrumental role in the signing of the first joint agreement in 2018, focusing on human spaceflight and, specifically, the field of space medicine. The Indo-French partnership took a significant stride forward under her leadership.

Indo-French Agreement on Astronaut Programme

Acknowledging her continued dedication, Lalithambika coordinated another critical Indo-French agreement in 2021, centered around India’s astronaut program. This agreement entails the training of India’s flight physicians and mission control teams at prominent French facilities, including the CADMOS center in Toulouse and the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany.

Lalithambika’s Stellar Career and Early Influences

Growing up and studying in Kerala, Lalithambika’s passion for space exploration was ignited during her youth, watching sounding rocket launches near her hometown with her grandfather, M N Ramakrishnan Pillai, a mathematician. Excelling academically, she emerged as a Class 10 topper in southern Kerala and pursued electrical engineering at the College of Engineering, Trivandrum, securing the second rank in the University of Kerala. Her academic journey continued with an MTech at COE and a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Kerala in 2009.

Contributions to ISRO

Lalithambika commenced her journey with ISRO in 1988 as a launch vehicle autopilot design engineer at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center. Over the years, she expanded her responsibilities, engaging in diverse activities encompassing design, validation, and flight telemetry data management for ISRO’s launch vehicle missions.

Legacy and Recognition

Lalithambika VR follows in the footsteps of former ISRO Chairman A S Kiran Kumar as the second ISRO scientist to receive the Legion of Honour from France for outstanding contributions to Indo-French space cooperation. This prestigious award, established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, stands as a testament to Lalithambika’s exceptional service and dedication to the field of space exploration.

Conclusion

Lalithambika VR’s journey from witnessing rocket launches in Kerala to receiving the Legion of Honour reflects a remarkable career marked by dedication, innovation, and international collaboration. Her pioneering efforts in advancing Indo-French space cooperation have not only left an indelible mark on the space exploration landscape but also garnered well-deserved recognition from the French Republic.

Important Questions Related to Exams

1. What prestigious award was Lalithambika VR honored with, and who presented the award?

Solution: Lalithambika VR was honored with the prestigious ‘Légion d’Honneur,’ and the award was presented by Thierry Mathou, the Ambassador of France to India.

2. When did Lalithambika join ISRO, and what were her initial responsibilities?

Solution: Lalithambika joined ISRO in 1988 as a launch vehicle autopilot design engineer at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center. Initially, her responsibilities focused on launch vehicle autopilot design.

3. Who preceded Lalithambika VR in receiving the Legion of Honour from France for outstanding contributions to Indo-French space cooperation?

Solution: Former ISRO Chairman A S Kiran Kumar preceded Lalithambika VR in receiving the Legion of Honour from France for outstanding contributions to Indo-French space cooperation.

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