Hyderabad: It's been a challenging job for the scientist who is responsible for making the launch of Agni-V successful. Tessy Thomas may be a homemaker to her family but is known as 'Agniputri' to the world for her achievement in the field of missile technology.
It all started in Alleppey, Kerala. After a B.Tech from Thrissur Engineering College, her fascination for radar and missile systems led her to join the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
"I joined the DRDO almost 20 years ago. Now, I am the programme director," Thomas said. Recalling her journey to the DRDO, she said, "I got the call from DRDO soon after I applied. I wanted to rest for a month, but I couldn't get the break. I still haven't got it," she said.
But it doesn't stop there. She helped in developing another path breaking technology known as RVS or "re-entry vehicle system". This lets the missile re-enter the atmosphere at a thundering velocity and a temperature of 3000 degrees Celsius, still keeping the control systems intact.
"Nobody gives you the know how of such things. We developed it on our own," Thomas said.
The real test for Dr Thomas and her team was in July 2006. 75 seconds into the flight and the missile suddenly went out of control. But Dr Thomas took it as a challenge and decided to prove a point.
"I think it was a great learning experience for all of us. We had to put it out, prove that nothing was wrong with the missile," she says.
And 10 months later, they did. The team re-launched the missile and it flew for 16 minutes. But the success came at a price. To be at the launch, Tessie left behind her sick son who had to take his board exams. But he's aptly named after the country's light combat fighter jet, Tejas and lived up to his name.
"I have no complaints. She had to do her duty to the nation and in fact she even managed to be there for me whenever I required her," Thomas's son Tejas said.
Today, Dr Thomas leads a team of 400 scientists, the majority of whom are male but it doesn't faze her.
"For scientists, there is no gender discrimination. Subject is subject, science is science. That's how we learn and move forward," she says.