SUPARCO’s Rehbar-1 Rocket
Yes, we have a space program! The only problem is… it hasn’t actually sent something to space for a long, long time.
The Space and Upper Atmosphere and Research commission, or SUPARCO for short, was founded with the help of Nobel Laureate Dr. Abdus Salam in the September of 1961, making Pakistan the first South Asian country to have a space program.
At its inception, it had noble ambitions and audaciously high goals (probably because it was run by scientists instead of blood-thirsty bureaucrats or military personnel). In less than a year (June, 1962) SUPARCO launched its first rocket, the Rehbar-1 becoming the tenth country in the world to do so, the first nine being the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Italy, Canada, Japan and Israel. In other words, Pakistan actually launched a rocket to space before India, China, Korea and all of the other major economies in contemporary Rising Asia.
Later Salam laid the foundations for physics and aerospace research infrastructure and Air Commodore Władysław Turowicz, successor to Salam, created the Islamabad Mission Control Centre and the Islamabad Ionospheric Station in the early 1970s. American astronauts from the Apollo 17 mission actually visited Karachi to see SUPARCO’s headquarters in Karachi.
SUPARCO’s Badr-1 Satellite
The fact that a poor third-world country that had just been founded less than two decades ago had not only managed to create a fully functional space program but had also sent a rocket to space was astounding! Everything was going amazingly, almost unbelievably, well…. but then came the bureaucrats and politicians.
Next to nothing was done by SUPARCO throughout the late 1970s and the 1980s. There was a brief reawakening in the early 1990s when the Badr satellites were launched, but it was only temporary. Nowadays the organization that had once been the pride of the country, first space program of South Asian, the great brainchild of Dr. Abdus Salam has shrivelled to nothing but another medium through which the public’s tax-payer money can be illegally transferred to the accounts of the corrupt bureaucracy.
Perhaps one day we might yet see a revival. Who knows? Maybe SUPARCO might even launch a rover to the moon or Mars! But sadly, that day is unlikely to come at least in the near future.