There are few times when you come into contact with something and feel the magic and aura in its surroundings. Rakesh Sharma, India’s first astronaut is an example of such enigmatic and charismatic personality.
The legend was born
It was the day of January 13, 1949, when this former Indian Air Force test and HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) chief test pilot for LCA (light combat aircraft) was born in Patiala, Punjab.
He was not only famous for his space voyage but during the 1971 war,
he showed tremendous mettle when flew many missions of great successes in MIG-21.
Training and Journey to Space
His journey started when he was selected on 20th September 1982 for cosmonaut and was trained extensively for the next 18 months for the 8-day trip to Space with the Russians.
The take-off from Baikonur/Moscow on April 2, 1984, brought Indo-Soviet relations to a great level of closeness. The Soyuz IT–11 took 3 people including Ship’s Commander Y.V. Malyshev and Flight Engineer G.M. Strekalov to the Salyut-7 orbiting Space Station.
Moments in Space Station
The crew spent seven days inside the station during which they conducted scientific and technical studies including 43 experimental sessions. His work was mainly in the fields of biomedicine and remote sensing. He also studied the effectiveness of Yoga in weightlessness. He took photographs for northern part of India in a mission to find suitable sites for nuclear plant installations.
Cosmonauts are trained the most to cope with the effects of zero gravity on the body and mind. Sharma, while giving a lecture in Bangalore on the kind of training that is given to astronauts, recalled that they were all made to sleep with their heads lower than their feet.
Power of Yoga
Sharma says that six months before the launch, he dropped the fitness regime that the other cosmonauts were following and started intensive yoga. This was to assess whether yoga helps people cope better with the lack of gravity.
Our India is Best
While he was in space, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in a famous conversation asked him how does India look from space, Sharma replied “Saare Jahan Se Achcha” meaning ‘the Best in the world’.
Several honours such as the honour of Hero of Soviet Union upon his return from the space, Ashoka Chakra by Indian Govt. were conferred on him. He took early retirement as wing commander from IAF (Indian Air Force).