New Delhi: India's first space traveller, Rakesh Sharma, is still a hero to many of his countrymen who remember him as the man who established as early as in the 1980s, India's growing influence in international space research.
Sharma took his maiden space flight aboard the Soviet Soyuz T-11 spacecraft on April 2, 1984 to Salyut-7 orbital station. He spent eight days carrying out various experiments including capturing multi-spectral images of northern India ahead of the construction of a dam in the Himalayas.
On the 50th anniversary of the first flight of a human into outer space, the maiden journey of former Soviet fighter pilot Yuri Gagarin, wishes poured in across the country for Sharma as well who embarked on the journey 27 years ago.
Who is Rakesh Sharma?
Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, is a former Indian Air Force test pilot, and cosmonaut who flew in space aboard the Soyuz T-11 as part of an Intercosmos Research Team.
Sharma's historic mission was part of a tie-up between the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Soviet Intercosmos space program. He and two Soviet cosmonauts were aboard the flight.
'Saare jahan se achha'
Sharma was asked by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi how India appeared from outer space, to which he replied, "Saare jahan se achcha", referring to an iconic Urdu poem used in India's freedom struggle.
He was conferred with the Government of India’s highest gallantry award (during peace time), the Ashoka Chakra, on his return.
Sharma later said he and his backup Wing Commander Ravish Malhotra, prepared an elaborate series of zero-gravity yoga exercises which he practised aboard the Salyut 7 to fight space sickness.
Internet abuzz with wishes for Sharma
Sharma dominated a part of Google India's trends on Tuesday as the global search engine dedicated a doodle to Gagarin’s first space flight. Twitter was abuzz with queries on Sharma with people linking to search pages on Sharma’s career and stories in media outlets.
Experts commented on India's space climb since 1984 and espoused the need for dedicated space research.