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More smart Indians opting to be space scientists: ISRO

By Fakir Balaji, IANS,

Mysore (Karnataka) : More and more smart graduates and research scholars across India are opting for an exciting career in space science, as evident from thousands of applications the space agency gets every year, of late.

“On average, about 150,000 graduates and scholars apply every year for postings in our organisation though we select about 300-400 on merit and long-term commitment to become space scientists,” Indian Space Research Organisation chairman K. Radhakrishna told IANS on the margins of a space summit here, about 150km from Bangalore.

Interestingly, the state-run ISRO, which was losing young scientists and scholars in droves earlier for a lucrative career in other sectors, especially the IT industry, and to its overseas counterparts, has also been able to retain as many over the past five years.

“We have seen a steep decline in exits from our organisation over the last five years. Voluntary attrition rate is also coming down substantially as many of those who have joined in the recent years are interested in a career in space science, as they find it too fascinating and exciting to pursue,” Radhakrishnan said.

Though the space agency has regular retirements on superannuation and some leaving for further studies (research) and on deputation or exchange programmes with other space agencies abroad, it has been attracting hundreds of NRI scientists and its former employees from overseas.

“We have been able to maintain our human capital at 16,000-17,000 people despite retirements and exits, as we were able to hire about 3,400 science/engineer grads and research scholars since 1999-2000 from across states with attractive pay package,” Radhakrishnan asserted.

Inability to attract best talent and retain those hired owing to better opportunities elsewhere forced the five-decade old organisation to set up a space university at Thiruvananathapuram to groom science and engineering grads wi h assistantship and a guaranteed job for a bright career.

“Successful launch of the moon mission (Chandrayan-1) and dedicated space missions for various applications and national programmes during the past decade have inspired many science grads to explore a career in space science,” Radhakrishnan observed.

To enhance capacity for launching more satellites for communications, broadcasting and spatial data, the space agency has initiated a series of measures in collaboration with its stakeholders to double-hiring during this decade.

“To convince more youngsters that a career in space science will be equally rewarding and remunerative, we have sponsored about 1,000 science graduates and scholars from across the country to participate in this space summit and interact with fellow scientists from the world over for inspiration,” the chairman pointed out.

The space agency is hosting the seven-day biennial 39th Scientific Assembly of the Committee on Space Research (Cospar-2012) in the sprawling green campus of the IT bellwether Infosys Ltd on the outskirts of this city of palaces.