Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian astronaut, celebrates his 75th birthday today. Astronaut Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma spent seven days, twenty-one hours, and forty minutes aboard the Salyut 7 space station, a historic achievement that guaranteed his position in history and gave enormous pride to India.
Rakesh Sharma’s Early Life
Rakesh Sharma was born in Patiala, Punjab, and showed a keen interest in learning and training at a young age. During his academic career, he attended esteemed establishments including Nizam College in Hyderabad, St. Ann’s High School, and St. George’s Grammar School. His desire to serve in the military drove him to enroll in Pune’s 35th National Defence Academy (NDA).
His career as an Astronaut
Ascending to the rank of Squadron Leader, Sharma joined the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 1970, amassing achievements that culminated in piloting MIG-21s during the 1971 liberation war of Bangladesh. His valor translated into 21 combat missions flown on these aircraft. Rakesh Sharma’s astronaut career started as a result of cooperation between the Soviet Interkosmos space program and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). He departed on a historic trip to the Salyut 7 space station on April 3, 1984, using the Soyuz T-11. In addition to bringing immense pride to India, this incredible accomplishment cemented his status as the first Indian astronaut to orbit the earth.
When Rakesh Sharma spoke with Indira Gandhi from Space
Rakesh Sharma’s famous statement to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi when she asked about how India looked from space is among the most remembered parts of his space journey. He responded by stating, “Sare jahan se accha” (Better than the rest of the world), showing his profound sense of patriotism and admiration.
Rakesh Sharma’s career post space
Rakesh Sharma started a new chapter in his life after retiring as a Wing Commander in 1987. As the company’s principal test pilot, he joined Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to further the development of aeronautical technology. Even after experiencing a potentially fatal event during a test flight of the MiG-21, he went on to make important contributions to the aviation industry. Rakesh Sharma gave up flying in 2001 and moved to Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, where he spent a satisfied and serene life.He was content to be out of the spotlight by taking up interests like reading, travelling, yoga, gardening, and golf. He also continued to play a significant role in India’s space ambitions, serving on the National Advisory Council for Gaganyaan of ISRO and making contributions to the country’s bold space initiatives.
Sharma now lives in Tamil Nadu’s serene Coonoor area, enjoying a modestly significant but extraordinarily meaningful life. Avoiding the spotlight, he nonetheless makes a valuable contribution to ISRO’s ambitious projects as a member of the National Space Advisory Council for the Gaganyaan project. Though his name isn’t the most prominent in today’s news, Sharma’s influence can be found in India’s heavenly journey and history textbooks. He continues to stand for unbounded space exploration and human ambitions.
By: Gursharan Kaur