ESRI Lauds Dr. Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan for Making a Difference

Award Goes to Astrophysicist for Launching Remote-Sensing and Geographic Information System Technology in India and Beyond

Redlands, California—July 29, 2009—Many people in India know Dr. Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan as an esteemed space scientist who spearheaded the development and use of the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites. Others know him as a Member of Parliament.

But few may realize his contributions in bringing agencies the technology needed to help estimate crop yields in the world’s most populous nation, identify new groundwater sources, monitor and manage forests, and plan where to build housing developments and roads. These represent only a handful of the many applications for the mapping and analysis conducted in India and several other countries using satellite imagery and geographic information system (GIS) software, an integration of technologies that Kasturirangan championed. Kasturirangan believes the technologies must bring value and benefit to society and individuals.

For these achievements, the former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) received a Making a Difference Award at the 2009 ESRI International User Conference, held July 13–17 at the San Diego Convention Center in California.

"He makes an enormous difference because of the integration of remote sensing into GIS and also the tremendous focus he has created on applications," ESRI president Jack Dangermond said, presenting the award.

Kasturirangan spent many years working in the space program, serving as project director for his nation’s first two experimental earth observation satellites, Bhaskara I and II. He also headed ISRO’s Satellite Center, where he supervised the development of the Indian National Satellite (INSAT-2) and four of India’s civilian IRS satellites.

Kasturirangan later became chairman of the ISRO and the country’s Space Commission, a position he held for nine years. He was then named a Member of Parliament, serving until early July 2009, when Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh appointed him to India’s Planning Commission. As a member of the commission, he will oversee planning and program development in science and technology. He will work with agencies that use satellite imagery and GIS data and applications.

"Dr. Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan is going to be a master of bringing geography to virtually everywhere in India and will be an example for all of us. Thank you," Dangermond said as he handed him the award.

In an interview after the ceremony, Kasturirangan said he accepted the Making a Difference Award on behalf of the dedicated team at the ISRO, the GIS and remote-sensing technology agencies and users throughout India, and government and other leaders who, as far back as the 1980s, could see how the combination of GIS and remote sensing could benefit Indian society.

"They had tremendous foresight into what imagery and GIS could do for the country in the context of development," he said.

To watch a video of Kasturirangan receiving the Making a Difference Award, visit

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