BANGALORE: The successful launch of India's first lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 has inspired many Indian space scientists working abroad to return home for a promising career in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), a top official said.
"Our moon mission has aroused tremendous interest in the scientific community the world over. The launch has made many overseas Indian space scientists think of returning and working in our organisation to further their career prospects," the official said.
Though the state-run ISRO's human resource department is yet to receive applications from abroad, the official who didn't want to be named confirmed that enquiries for job prospects in the space agency started since the Oct 22 launch of Chandrayaan from Sriharikota spaceport, about 80 km north of Chennai.
"There have been some enquiries though at a personal level. For instance, Chandrayaan director M. Annadurai got e-mail from scientists, mostly of Indian origin, congratulating him for the lunar mission and offering to join the space agency," the official pointed out.
Many persons of Indian origin (PIOs) currently working in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the US and the European Space Agency (ESA) in Europe or at Kourou in French Guiana, South America, began their career as scientists in ISRO or in Indian academic/research institutes before migrating in search of greener pastures.
"Some Indian space scientists working in NASA may be mulling to come back to work on our projects. They might be keen on applying for a suitable post in commensurate with their experience and expectations. We welcome them on merit," the official noted.
But the official added that as a policy the Indian space agency did not recruit foreign nationals.
"Indian born scientists and PIOs are, however, eligible to apply in ISRO. To our knowledge, barring a few, not many Indian scientists are working in ESA. If any, they may be second or third generation Indians with European nationality," the official hinted.
Annadurai has said scientists from NASA and ESA, including PIOs have sent feelers expressing interest to work for ISRO, even at lower salaries. Annadurai could not be reached for his comments.
ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair had told reporters at Sriharikota that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had put in place packages for scientists working in the space organisation and the atomic energy agency on the basis of the Sixth Pay Commission.
"We are in the process of getting these things (revised packages) cleared at the final approval stage. But I don't think we can give the phenomenal salary offered by the IT firms. We will give respectable living conditions in line with society," Nair affirmed.
In accordance with the Sixth Pay Commission's recommendations, the government has revised pay scales of space scientists and engineers to Rs.31,000 from Rs.18,000 at entry-level posts; to Rs.60,000 from Rs.43,000 at middle-level posts and to Rs.70,000 from Rs.45,000 for the top posts - director and above.
The 36-year-old ISRO, headquartered in Bangalore, with multiple locations across the country, has a total workforce of 16,500, including about 10,000 scientists and engineers. About 6,500 are employed in administrative and auxiliary services.
"Our attrition rate is less than the best of IT companies. Though there is a dearth of outstanding science or engineering graduates opting for a career in space science/technology, we are able to manage the demand-supply gap fairly well," the official observed.
To ensure a steady stream of supply to its various departments, ISRO has commenced a space university at Thiruvananthapuram this academic year where about 150 students with science background are offered a five-year course in space technology and applications.
"The graduating students will have a five year bond to serve with the organisation. They get oriented to work on space application and programmes, with opportunity to do projects at our various facilities," the official added.
About 90 percent of ISRO scientists/engineers are home-grown, having graduated from Indian Institutes of Technology, National Institutes of Technology, Bits Pilani or other top engineering universities/colleges.