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Celebrating the Life and Legacy of N.Valarmathi


The famous and unique scientist who lent her voice to ISRO's Mission Launch Countdown passed away at 64 on September 2, 2023, due to a heart attack. So, who was this iconic scientist?

N. Valarmathi was born in Araiyalur, Tamil Nadu, on July 31, 1959. She received her primary and secondary education at Nirmala Girls Higher Secondary School and her bachelor's degree in engineering from the Government College of Technology, Coimbatore. She went on to acquire a Master's degree in Electronics and Communications from Anna University, and she pursued a research career in the field of physics.

 In 1984, Valarmathi joined the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Moreover, she is the second female scientist from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to lead a prestigious project after TK Anuradha, project director of the GSAT-12 mission in 2011.

 Her contributions are observed in missions like the Insat 2A, IRS IC, IRS ID, and TES. In addition, she was also the project director of the Radar Imaging Spacecraft 1, or PSLV-C19-RISAT-1 mission, the first and heaviest spacecraft of its kind, launched on April 26, 2012. The mission was a geocentric orbit reference system, Earth observation and radar imaging satellite. It was the country's second such satellite. “It was a nice feeling. I felt very great.” Valarmathi stated in the Indian Times that she launched her success. She affirmed women's equal capability and potential. Thus, urging them to use it properly.

She also added that RISAT-1, being a unique satellite, has several novel technologies, including a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) that can take photographs both during the day and at night. It would be used for disaster prediction, agriculture, and forestry over its five-year period, and its high-resolution photos and microwave imaging might potentially be used for defense.


Named by the Government of Tamil Nadu in honor of former President Dr. Abdul Kalam, she received the Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Award from Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on August 15, 2015, making her the first to receive this award. This award aims to recognize the development of scientific contributions in humanities and student welfare.

Soon, Valarmathi was known for her unique voice during many ISRO missions and was a part of the Range Operations Programme Office. Her signature launch countdown, T-minus 20 seconds..15 seconds..10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1... plus 5 seconds..." is something everyone eagerly awaited for. Her last mission was the historic Chandrayaan-3 mission, launched on July 14, 2023.

"The voice of Valarmathi Madam will not be there for the countdowns of future missions of ISRO from Sriharikotta. Chandrayan 3 was her final countdown announcement- an unexpected demise. I feel so sad. Pranams!" wrote former ISRO director PV Venkitakrishnan on X (formerly Twitter) to offer condolences on her death. And so did many others who paid tribute to N. Valarmathi. One user made an observation of her absence during the Aditya L1 launch that took place on September 2, 2023, assuming she was out of the office, while another stated that they worked with her for the Vikram-S launch. Brut India covered her story on Instagram.

N.Valarmathi became an inspiration for many, and now, the unique voice of ISRO is gone; however, it will be forever etched in the minds of the people and space.


Edited by Whitney Edna Ibe


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