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The first Indian to travel into space, Wing commander Rakesh Sharma is a former Indian Air force test pilot and Cosmonaut who flew in space abroad the Soyuz T-11 as part of an Intercosmos Research team. His historic mission was part of a tie up between the Indian Space Research Organization and the Soviet Intercosmos space programme.The government of India conferred Rakesh Sharma with the highest gallantry award the Ashok Chakra. He is still a hero to many of his countrymen as the man who established India’s growing influence in international space research.
Life of Rakesh Sharma:
Rakesh Sharma was born on January 13, 1949 at Patiala in Punjab. He studied at St George’s Grammar School and in Kendriya Vidyalaya in Hyderabad. In 1966 he joined the NDA as an Air Force cadet. In 1970 he was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a Pilot Officer. In 1971 operations against Pakistan, he flew various missions in his MiG aircraft with distinction. He now lives a quiet life with his wife Madhu.
Career of Rakesh Sharma:
Rakesh Sharma was a Squadron Leader and pilot with the Indian Air Force. He took his maiden space flight abroad the Soviet Soyuz T-11 spacecraft on April 2, 1984, as part of a joint space programme between the Indian Space Research Organization and the Soviet Intercosmos space programme. He and two soviet cosmonauts were abroad the flight. Sharma spent 8 days in space abroad the Salyut 7 space station. He carried out various experiments, including conducting multi-spectral photography of northern India in anticipation of the construction of hydroelectric power stations in the Himalayas.
Former prime minster Indira Gandhi asked Sharma how India looked from outer space, to which his reply was “Sare jahan se accha” referring to an iconic Urdu poem used in India’s freedom struggle.
Post flight he along with his backup Wing commander Ravish Malhotra prepared an elaborate series of zero-gravity yoga exercises which he practiced abroad the Salyut 7 to fight space sickness.
Rakesh Sharma retired with the rank of wing commander. He later joined the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited as a test pilot at its Nashik division. He was later based at the National Flight test centre in Bangalore and worked on the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft programme. He has also served as the Chief Operations Officer at Automated Workflow. He is now the chairman of the board of Automated Workflow.
Awards and Recognitionsof Rakesh Sharma:
The government of India conferred Rakesh Sharma with the highest gallantry award the Ashok Chakra. He was conferred with the Hero of Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin’ by the erstwhile Soviet government.