As the Agni V missile thundered into the sky off the coast of Orissa on Thursday,it was a moment of triumph for Tessy Thomas,the scientist who broke the glass ceiling in the male-dominated arena of rocket science when she was appointed to head the Agni IV mission.
But the name of the woman who has played a crucial role in the development of the Agni series of missiles was missing in the press release issued by the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). The release mentioned all other scientists present at the launch.
Those present at the launch pad today were Dr V G Sekaran,director of Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL),Tessy Thomas,Dr S K Chaudhari,director of Research Centre Imarat (RCI),A K Chakrabarti,director,DRDL,S P Dash,director,Integrated Test Range,Guru Prasad,director,Research and Development Establishment Engineers,Pune and R K Gupta,project director of Agni-V apart from Dr V K Saraswat,scientific advisor to the defence minister,and Avinash Chander,the Agni programme director.
The DRDO release acknowledged the presence of all of them except Tessy Thomas.
Ravi Kumar Gupta,director of public interface,DRDO,New Delhi,said Tessy Thomas was the director for Agni-IV. Dr R K Gupta is the project director of Agni-V and Avinash Chander is the overall programme director, he said. When asked why her name was left out,Gupta did not comment.
When contacted,Agni Programme Director Chander said: Tessy Thomas played a major role in the success of Agni-V. She was in charge of mission design and guidance systems and she was there all through. She was and still is the project director of Agni-IV but Dr R K Gupta is the project director of Agni-V. She was there at the launch today and she is a part of the team.
Based at the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) in DRDOs Missile Complex,Hyderabad,Tessy Thomas headed the Agni-IV project,an important milestone in the missile history of India that led up to the test-firing of the Agni V on Thursday. The Agni-IV was successfully test fired in November 2011. Nick-named Agni putri and missile woman,Thomas,48,joined DRDO 21 years ago. She is an expert in solid system propellants and is credited with developing the technology for re-entry vehicle system.