With the words ‘Saare jahan se achcha Hindustan hamara …’, every Indian’s chest still swells with pride. Rakesh Sharma, India’s first astronaut, said these words 37 years ago (1982) in response to a question by the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi asked in her question, “What does India look like from space”. In response to which Sharma said, ‘I can say without any hesitation that our whole country is better than ours’.
Rakesh Sharma, born in Patiala on 13 January 1949, is the only Indian to step into space today. On 20 September 1982, ISRO selected him to be sent to space. On April 2, Sharma made history by flying from Soyuz T-11 spacecraft from Baikanur in the Soviet Union. He spent 7 days, 21 hours and 40 minutes in the space station in his space journey. With this visit, India became the 14th nation to send its man into space.
In this mission, Rakesh was with his two companions and was representing India. After 33 experiments in space, he returned efficiently and gave India proud moments. After successfully returning, he was awarded the Ashoka Chakra by the Government of India. At the same time, he was awarded the ‘Hero of Soviet Union’ by the Soviet Government. Even after returning from space, Sharma had a long and illustrious career.
He served Hindustan Aeronautics as the Chief Test Pilot. Even today, he is no less than an inspiration for the youth who aspire to become astronauts. Before retirement, Rakesh Sharma took his last flight in 2001. It has been a long time of 37 years for his space journey. Despite this, he remains a hero for the country. Rakesh Sharma, who enhances the values of our people of India, really deserves respect. They should be saluted from the heart.