Chandrayaan-3: Kerala’s Latin Church played an important role in India’s space saga


St Mary Magdalene church in Thumba plays key role in India’s space Saga : While the whole country is celebrating the historic success of India’s lunar mission ‘Chandrayaan-3’, it is a particularly happy occasion for the ‘Latin Church’, a major Catholic church located in Kerala, because It has played a unique role in India’s space saga.

First unit of Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launch Station commissioned here

Long back when India started dreaming about a Moon mission or Mars mission and the country’s space program was in its nascent stage, the same Latin Church did its bit to set up the first unit of the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launch Station (TERLS) here. The church and the adjacent bishop’s house were wholeheartedly handed over to the scientists. Later, TERLS was renamed as Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.

Top priority for the development of the country

Expressing the Church’s joy and enthusiasm over the stupendous success of the lunar mission, Latin Archdiocese Vicar General Father Eugene H. Pereira said that the Church and its devotees have always given top priority to the development of the country.

Very happy and proud of ISRO’s achievement

He said- We, the church and the fishermen community living in the coastal areas here are very happy and proud of the achievement of the Indian Space Research Organisation. Perera said he was proud to say that the Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram and the St Mary Magdalene Church in Thumba, a fishing township on the outskirts, played an important role in giving wings to the country’s dream of a space mission.

The proximity to Earth’s magnetic equator made the area ideal for setting up rocket launch stations.

During the 1960s, space scientists found the Magdalene Church site ideal for setting up a rocket launch station because of its proximity to the Earth’s magnetic equator. Earlier hundreds of fishermen families of Thumba used to come here for prayer.

Vikram Sarabhai sought church building and land for the country’s space program

Vikram Sarabhai, the founder of India’s space programme, met the then Bishop of the Latin Church, Reverend Peter Bernard Pereira, and requested his support in handing over the church building and surrounding areas for the country’s space programme. The bishop not only readily agreed to hand over the church but also agreed to talk to people belonging to the fishermen community in Thumba and convince them about the importance of space science.

A rare event bringing together faith and science

The Vicar General said, the Bishop paid tribute to Sarabhai and our beloved scientist and former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam spoke to the devotees and told them about the need to vacate the church land. All the devotees gathered in the church agreed to his suggestion. He said that this event has become a rare event in the history of the country to bring faith and science together.

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