From a Small TN Town to Working On ISRO’s Chandrayaan 3: How an ‘Average Student’ Chased His Dreams
After Chandrayaan 3, Project Director P Veeramuthuvel recently explained the roadmap for Gaganyaan, India’s first manned mission to space. His journey from a Tamil Nadu village to ISRO is a testament to the power of hard work.
With Chandrayaan-3, India scripted history by being the first country to successfully land on the Moon’s south pole, transforming our understanding of the lunar surface, and becoming the fourth country ever to achieve a soft landing on the Moon.
The launch of Chandrayaan 3 on 13 July, 2023, was celebrated at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, with ISRO chairman S Somanath confirming the successful launch. Millions of Indians across the country watched this historic event live, and behind the chairman, two key figures of the mission stood — Mohana Kumar, the mission director, and P Veeramuthuvel, the Chandrayaan-3 project director.
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Veeramuthuvel, the cynosure of all eyes, stood with a composed demeanour, smiling and applauding as his team’s years of dedication paid off. Meanwhile, more than 250 kilometres away in Viluppuram, Tamil Nadu, his proud family celebrated with fireworks and sweets at the 46-year-old’s home.
And now, as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is working on Gaganyaan — India’s first manned mission to space, P Veeramuthuvel, recently said at an event that they are gearing up for the launch. “Gaganyaan programme is coming up. It’s a human exploration programme. We have the roadmap and we will have the launch soon,” he said.
The first test flight of Gaganyaan is scheduled for 21 October, 2023.
From an average student to a topper
Hailing from a modest background, Veeramuthuvel’s achievements at ISRO are a testament to the strength of his hard work.
Veeramuthuvel was raised in the railway quarters in Viluppuram, where his father Palanivel worked as a technician for the Southern Railway. He studied in a government school called the Railway Mixed High School.
“I was an average student and had no idea what to do after school. My parents did not have much education; there was no one to guide me in my higher studies. So after discussing with my friends, I decided to do an engineering diploma course,” said Veeramuthuvel in a video he released after taking charge of the Chandrayaan-3 project.
In an interview with DTNext, Palanivel said that Veeramuthuvel is the first graduate in their family.
It was during Veeramuthuvel’s time pursuing a diploma in mechanical engineering at a polytechnic college that he discovered his first passion. “While pursuing the diploma, I got interested in engineering. I secured 90 percent marks in all papers and got an engineering seat on merit in the Shri Sai Ram Engineering College in Chennai for a Bachelor of Engineering course,” he added.
Transforming from an average student, he began excelling in engineering. From then on, he consistently ranked first or second in every exam.
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“The reason was not that I was studying all the time. But when I was engaged with my studies, I would try to study with 100 percent focus and make an effort to understand everything that I studied. This is the reason I was able to secure good marks,” he said.
He then secured admission to the then REC, which is today called NIT Trichy, for a master’s in engineering, in which he also excelled with a 9.17 CGPA.
‘Hard work will never go unrewarded’
🇮🇳Vikram soft-landed on 🌖, again!
Vikram Lander exceeded its mission objectives. It successfully underwent a hop experiment.
On command, it fired the engines, elevated itself by about 40 cm as expected and landed safely at a distance of 30 – 40 cm away.… pic.twitter.com/T63t3MVUvI— ISRO (@isro) September 4, 2023
Veeramuthuvel’s career began at Lakshmi Machine Works in Coimbatore, where he developed a deep interest in aerospace engineering. Subsequently, he worked in the research and development division of the helicopter division of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bengaluru, as a design engineer.
Having dreamt of working in ISRO since his college days, he joined the ISRO Satellite Centre as a project engineer in Bengaluru. Over the years, he worked on multiple remote sensing and scientific satellites, and with the Mars Orbiter Mission in 2013. He also enrolled in a PhD at IIT Madras to fuel his love for research after joining ISRO. His doctorate is on the topic ‘Vibration Suppression of Electronic Package in Satellites’.
Veeramuthuvel led ISRO’s inaugural nanosatellite team, successfully launching three of them. With a team of young scientists, all under the age of 40, they achieved this feat in just nine months, propelling Veeramuthuvel to the pinnacle of his career.
“There were 15 to 20 [scientists] and they came up with a bus configuration for the project, which was launched around 2017. This was the time we saw his leadership qualities and that helped him emerge as the project director after the failure of Chandrayaan-2,” said former ISRO scientist and satellite centre director M Annadurai to The Indian Express.
Following that, Veeramuthuvel was appointed as an associate project director for the Chandrayaan-2 mission and later promoted to the role of project director for Chandrayaan-3, where he led a substantial team.
The humble scientist says that one must make use of their opportunities well to reach the top. “I am a simple person. If I am able to achieve these things and reach this level, everyone else can do it too,” he said.
“All of us get opportunities; it is about how we use them. Self-discipline, 100 percent involvement without any expectation, hard work, and our uniqueness will definitely bring success. Hard work will never go unrewarded,” remarked Veeramuthuvel.
‘Average student, spiritual, says dad on Veeramuthuvel’ by K Karthikeyan for DT Next, Published on 25 August 2023
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