Very apt answer, given by the space hero to the then Prime Minister of India Smt. Indira Gandhi, when asked ” upar sei bharat kaisa dikhta hai aapko” the answer made her speechless. “Sarei Jaahan Sei Achha Hindustan Humara”, patriotic Urdu poem by Iqbal, formally known as Tarānah-e-Hind was the reply by Rakesh Sharma, who made the historic moment for the nation.
Born on the auspicious day of Lohri, the day of harvesting Rabi crop, 13th Jan 1948, Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, is India’s no.1 and world’s 138th Astronaut. He was the blessed child of Mr. Devinder and Mrs. Tripti Sharma of Patiala in Punjab. The qualities of a genius engineer seemed to appear from childhood instead of just playing with toys like any other common children, Rakesh Sharma showed his interest not only in playing with electronic gadgets but also its mechanism, hardware, he used to break, repair and try to remake them with his sharp, blunt skills. Rakesh Sharma when grown, used to watch plane in the sky until it used to get disappeared and this becomes regular feature of the day, strong desired aroused in his mind and the young boy born with extra-ordinary qualities did it remarkably well that every Indian is proud. Devotion or Patriotism was not just a feeling but a sheer self surrender for Rakesh Sharma.
His early education was from St. George’s Grammar school, in Hyderabad. He was deployed to the National Defence Academy as an Air Force trainee in July 1966. Rakesh was very focused and dedicated student and after he passed out from the Academy in 1970, he was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a test pilot. His extreme passion for flying, opened up many opportunities for him such as being an important part of war operation against Pakistan. Seeing his efficiency and immense dedication he was given the task of flying various Mikoyan-Gurevich aircrafts also known as MiG, from the year 1971. He swiftly climbed the ladder of success, passed through several levels and was appointed as Squadron Leader in Indian Force in 1984. He proved to be a pioneer in the field of piloting. He was popular as best military cadets with his hardcore dedication and true patriotism. Government has awarded Rakesh Sharma for his gallantry on successfully completing the given space mission, and with two of the honors, The Hero of Soviet Union and the Ashoka Chakra Award. After few years, he was involved to be an integral part of an extraordinary mission as a combined space program between Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the Soviet Inter cosmos. It was built by the ISRO to gain experience in building and operating a satellite in space. Finally, the day came in Indian Air Force history when the Indian Cosmonaut stepped into the space and brought new perspective in the country.
It is almost 26 years ago since Rakesh Sharma undertook the historical journey to space, but it is still fresh and remembered among the people. Rakesh Sharma was chosen for this assignment and has been an inspiration to all upcoming cosmonauts. There was a wave of jubilation throughout the country when the first Indian spent a week in space with Russian cosmonauts in their space laboratory Salyut-7. It was a mission that carried out different experiments, was extremely successful. He has shown the world that how can a person perform splendidly well in adverse circumstances.
In 1984, under the joint space operations between Indian Space Research Organization and the Soviet Union Intercosmos program, Rakesh Sharma who was the then Indian Air Force squadron leader and pilot, stayed eight days in space. The historic day, when the space flight took off on 3rd April 1984, Rakesh Sharma had made it possible by being the first Indian to travel in space. He told that space mission involved hardcore rigorous training (exercises to sustain zero gravity). Many assemblies congratulated Rakesh Sharma on his grand achievement and also sent special felicitation messages. In Moscow, Indian and Soviet flags waved together at different places. In India special arrangements were made to update daily broadcast for people in India who were on with their TV sets all the time. Mr. Vishwa Bandhu Gupta, Rajya Sabha member, New Delhi, went up in an air balloon to celebrate the glorious event. After serving the country with sheer dedication and commitment, the space hero Rakesh Sharma, retired from Indian Army as a Wing Commander and became a part of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as a test pilot and was deployed in the Nashik Division. He began to work on Light Combat Aircraft program in National Flight Test Center in Bangalore. Recalling his life journey Sharma once said, “I dreamt of becoming a pilot since childhood, but when I became a pilot, thought the dream was over.” Working as a soldier, the great hero never thought even in dream that his journey will reach Indian Air Force in space. But as it is said, “Where there is a will there is a way”.