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Tuesday witnessed a momentous occasion as V R Lalithambika, former director of the Directorate of the Human Spaceflight Programme at ISRO, was bestowed with the prestigious Légion d’honneur, the highest French civilian award. French Ambassador Thierry Mathou presented the accolade in recognition of Lalithambika’s outstanding contributions to fostering space cooperation between France and India.
Historic Recognition for ISRO Scientist
The distinguished scientist Lalithambika, renowned for her expertise in advanced launch vehicle technology, was honored on Tuesday with the Légion d’honneur, an award established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. The award, presented by the French Republic, stands as a testament to exceptional service, irrespective of nationality.
A Stellar Journey: Lalithambika’s Impact on ISRO
Having played a pivotal role in the development of various ISRO rockets, Lalithambika’s focus on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has been instrumental. Her contributions extended to international collaborations, particularly with the French National Space Agency (CNES).
Collaborative Milestones: Gaganyaan Project and Beyond
In 2018, Lalithambika, then serving as the Director of the Human Spaceflight Programme, collaborated closely with CNES for India’s ambitious Gaganyaan project. This collaboration facilitated the exchange of specialists in space medicine and marked the beginning of a fruitful partnership between the two nations.
Continued Contributions: Second Agreement with CNES
Her diplomatic efforts further led to the signing of a second agreement in 2021 between France and India related to the Indian astronaut program. This agreement solidified the commitment of the French space agency CNES to train India’s flight physicians and mission control teams. The training is set to take place at the CADMOS center in Toulouse, France, and the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany.
French Ambassador Mathou expressed his delight in conferring the Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur on Dr. V.R. Lalithambika, acknowledging her as a distinguished scientist and trailblazer in space technology. He praised her expertise, accomplishments, and unwavering efforts, highlighting the significant impact on the Indo-French space partnership.
Upon receiving the award, Lalithambika expressed her sincere hope that this honor would inspire more women to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and excel in their chosen fields. The recognition not only acknowledges Lalithambika’s