The First Indianan in Space
Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin was the first person in the world to travel into space. He went into space on 12th April 1961. However, in 1984, Rakesh Sharma became the first citizen of India to go into space. Millions of Indians could then see on their television sets. Their country’s first traveller into space.
Rakesh Sharma quickly progressed through many levels. In 1984, he was appointed as the Squadron Leader and pilot of the Indian Air Force. He was selected in 1982 to become a cosmonaut and go into space as part of a joint programme between the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Soviet Intercosmos Space Programme.
On 3rd April 1984, Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma rocketed out into space with the two Russian astronauts. Besides Sharma, Soviet-Indian international crew included the Ship’s Commander Y.V. Malyshev and Flight Engineer G.M. Strekalov from Russia. They flew aboard the Soviet rocket Soyuz T-11 that took off from Baikonur Space Center in Kazakh, Russia.
The rocket that launched the spacecraft weighted 300 tones. It left behind the gravitational force of the Earth within’ 8.30 minutes. After twenty-four hours, the spacecraft Soyuz T-11 reached near the space station Salyut-7. Rakesh Sharma spent 7 days 21 hours and 40 minutes aboard the Salyut 7 during which his team conducted scientific and technical studies. They carried out 43 experimental sessions. The astronauts in the spacecraft took more than 1500 snapshots of the Earth from space.
The crew was joined by a television news conference with officials in Russia and then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. When Mrs Gandhi questioned Rakesh Sharma how India appeared to him from outer space, he answered “Sare Jahan se Achchha”. At that time, India became the 14th nation to send a man to outer space.
Rakesh Sharma completed his space journey and returned to Earth on 11th April 1984. He was conferred with the honour of Hero of Soviet Union upon his return from space. Even the Government of India conferred its highest gallantry award during peacetime, the Ashoka Chakra.