Rakesh Sharma

Born On: January 13th, 1949
Born In: Patiala in India
Career: Test Pilot and Cosmonaut

    During the mid-80's, Rakesh Sharma proved to be a pioneer in the field of piloting. He was the first Indian to venture into space and bring a new perspective into the country. It was almost 26 years ago that since Rakesh undertook that historical journey to space, although it is still remembered among the people. Owing to his dedication and struggle, he became a part of the most distinctive space program that involved only the best military cadets. The Intercosmos Research Team was a program that was conducted by the Soviet Union and included active participation from allied countries such as India, Syria and France. Rakesh Sharma was chosen for this assignment and ever since, he has been an inspiration to upcoming cosmonauts. If you are interested in learning more about this great personality, read the following.

Early Life 
    On January 13th 1949, Rakesh Sharma was born in the well-known district of Patiala located in the state of Punjab. As a young boy, he enrolled at St. George's Grammar School in Hyderabad and received his early education from there. Thereafter, he was admitted to the National Defense Academy as an Air Force plebe in July 1966. Rakesh proved to be a focused and dedicated student and by 1970, he was commissioned into the Indian Air Force to become a pilot.

    In 1970, after joining the Indian Air Force as a test pilot, his passion for flying opened up several opportunities such as being a part of war operations against Pakistan. He flew various Mikoyan-Gurevich aircrafts starting from 1971. Rakesh swiftly progressed through many levels and in 1984 he was appointed as the Squadron Leader and pilot of the Indian Air Force.

    After some years, he was asked to go on an extraordinary mission as a combined space program between Indian Space Research Organisation and the Soviet Intercosmos.

    He spent eight days journeying around the Earth's orbit in a space station called Salyut 7. The flight Soyuz T-11 also carried two other astronauts from Soviet Union. On 3rd April 1984 when the space flight took off, Rakesh had made history by being the first Indian to travel in space. His responsibilities included capturing multi-spectral images of the Northern part of India with a view to construct a hydroelectric power station close to the Himalayas. In an interview to the press, he described this experience as the best feeling ever. Rakesh also said that the space venture involved rigorous training (zero gravity exercises) for him and Rakesh Malhotra, his colleague.

    A few years later he retired from the Indian Army as a Wing Commander to become a part of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as a test pilot. He was posted in the Nashik Division. He then shifted to National Flight Test Center (NFTC) in Bangalore and began to work on Light Combat Aircraft program, along with a few others.

    In 2006, Sharma took part in a conference involving a gathering of the best scientists of ISRO, who were responsible for one of India's space missions. Currently, he has retired from his services and is now the chairperson for the Automated Workflow.

Awards And Accolades 
    Apart from the first Indian to be on space, he has been awarded by the Government for his gallantry on successfully completing the given mission. The Hero of Soviet Union and the Ashoka Chakra Award were two of the accolades given to honor his courageous deeds.

1949: Rakesh Sharma was born in Patalia into a Punjabi family.
1966: He joined the National Defense Academy as an Air Force trainee.
1970: Appointed as a test pilot by Indian Air Force.
1971: Rakesh Sharma flew the Mikoyan-Gurevich, a Russian jet.
1984: He was a part of a space mission owing to which he became the first man to travel to space.
2006: He took part in a space conference held by ISRO.