Rakesh Sharma is former Indian Air Force Pilot and a cosmonaut, who became the first Indian citizen to travel in Space.
Rakesh Sharma was born on 13 January 1949 (age 70 years; as in 2019), in Patiala city of Punjab, India. He attended St. Ann’s High School, Secunderabad and later joined St. Georges Grammar School, Hyderabad. He graduated from Nizam College, Hyderabad and was admitted to National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, Pune. His Zodiac/Sun sign is Capricorn.
Height: 5′ 6″
Weight: 75 kg
Eye Color: Light Brown
Hair Color: White
Family, Caste & Wife
Rakesh was born to Gaur Brahmin parents, Devenddranath Sharma and Tripata Sharma. He married Madhu, an Interior Designer.
The couple has a son Kapil Sharma, who is a film director
and a daughter Krittika Sharma, who is a senior Design Associate & Behavior Architect. They had on more daughter Mansi, who died at the young age of six.
Rakesh Sharma joined in as a test pilot in Air Force in the year 1970. He progressed through many levels and was appointed as Squadron Leader and pilot in Indian Air Force in the year 1984.
He joined Indian Space Research Organisation and the Soviet Intercosmos space program, after being selected for becoming a Cosmonaut 20 September in 1982. He flew to space towards Salyut 7 Orbital Station, in Soyuz T-11 along with ship’s commander, Yury Malyshev, and flight engineer, Gennadi Strekalov.
Rakesh Became first Indian citizen to travel the space, spending 7 days, 21 hours and 40 minutes. He retired with the rank of wing commander. He joined Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in 1987 and served as the chief test pilot in the HAL Nashik Division until 1992, before moving on to Bangalore to work as the chief test pilot of HAL. He retired from flying in 2001.
Awards and Honors
- Ashok Chakra
- Paschim Star
- Sangram Medal
- Sainya Seva Medal
- Videsh Seva Service Medal
- 25th Anniversary Of Independence Medal
- 9 Years Long Service Medal
- Hero Of The Soviet Union
- Cosmonaut: Yuri Gagarin
- Destination: Nilgiri Hills, Tamil Nadu
- His ancestors hail from Multan, West Punjab (present-day Pakistan).
- Since his childhood, Rakesh was fascinated by the outer space world. Recalling the event of Yuri Gagarin’s entry to space, Mr Sharma says,
I was a student when Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961, and I lapped every written word. “
- He was just 18 when he joined the Air Force as a Cadet in 1966.
- In the year 1980, the Indian Air Force (IAF) was asked by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to select two cosmonauts for joint Indo-Soviet mission. Wing Commander Ravish Malhotra and Rakesh Sharma were selected. Due to some reasons, requirements were reduced to a single person that lead Rakesh to go for the task.
- Rakesh undertook the scrupulous training around 3 years before setting off his foot for space. He was locked inside a closed room by Air force facility in Bangalore for 72 hours to test for latest Claustrophobia. He had to learn the Russian Language because most of the instruction was given in Russian.
- He even practised ‘Zero-Gravity Yoga’ to deal with the issue of space sickness.
- While he was training in Moscow for the space mission, he was hit with the news of the unfortunate event of his daughter, Mansi’s death. Despite that, he continued his training to be the first man of India to travel space.
- His job in space was to conduct an experiment, mainly in the field of biomedicine and remote sensing. He also did life sciences and material processing experiments, including Silicium fusing tests.
- In a joint conference held in Moscow, the then Prime Minister of India asked Indira Gandhi, how India looks from space, the reply came, “Saare Jahaan Se Achaa (The Best in the World).”
- Soon after his return to Earth, Rakesh became a hot topic in media; both in India and Abroad. He daily routine was surrounded by press conferences, interactions, seminars, interviews, etc.
- Even after accomplishing so much, he shows a humble persona and says,
I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have gone in space. But, it could have been anyone. It is like a Lottery, Meri Lag Gyi “
- His achievements were soon subdued by the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots that were triggered by the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
- While testing of MIG-21 fighter jet near Ozar, Nashik, he lost control causing a technical hitch. Fortunately, he ejected out of the jet at the last moment.
- Many people think that Rajesh Sharma was the first person to walk on the moon. To clear the misconceptions, he was only the first Indian to go to space.
- After his retirement from HAL, Rajesh settled away from city life in Coonoor. He fell in love with Nilgiri Hills, at the age of 15, when he went on a solo visit to his Uncle’s.
- He shares a great relationship with his former fellow Air Force Officer, Ravish Malhotra.
- His son Kapil Sharma is a Bollywood film director, who directed the film “I, Me Aur Main (2013).”
- Rajesh says that he wants to go into space again but this time being solely for the purpose of travel and exploring.
- When he was in space, he reported that there was a fire in Burma.
- There is news about the biopic of Rakesh Sharma named “Salute”, in Bollywood, which is going to be the directorial debut for Mahesh Mathai. Initially, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan were on the radar for the lead, but both of the actors left.