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13 January 1949 |
Patiala, Patiala and East Punjab States Union, India
|Other occupation||Test Pilot|
|Rank||Wing Commander, Indian Air Force|
|Time in space||7d 21h 40m|
|Missions||Soyuz T-11 / Soyuz T-10|
|Awards|| Ashok Chakra
Hero of the Soviet Union
Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, AC, Hero of the Soviet Union, (born 13 January 1949) is a former Indian Air Force test pilot who flew aboard Soyuz T-11 as part of the Intercosmos program. Sharma was the first Indian to travel in space.
Sharma joined the Indian Air Force in 1970 as a pilot officer after joining the NDA as an IAF cadet in 1966.
During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Sharma flew missions in his MiG aircraft with considerable success. He was a squadron leader with the Indian Air Force, when he flew into space in 1984 as part of a joint programme between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Soviet Intercosmos space program.
He spent eight days in space on board the Salyut 7 space station. He joined 2 other Soviet cosmonauts aboard the Soyuz T-11 spacecraft which blasted off on 2 April 1984.
Sqn Ldr Rakesh Sharma was a test pilot in the IAF. He was selected on 20 September 1982 to become a cosmonaut. In 1984 he became the first citizen of India to go into space when he flew aboard the Soviet rocket Soyuz T-11. The take-off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic on 2 April 1984 was a high point in Indo-Soviet relations.
The Soyuz T-11 docked and transferred the three member Soviet-Indian international crew which also included the Ship's Commander Y.V. Malyshev and Flight Engineer G.M. Strekalov (USSR) to the SALYUT-7 Orbital Station. The crew spent seven days aboard the Salyut space station during which they conducted scientific and technical studies which included 43 experimental sessions.
Sharma used Yoga techniques to combat the debilitating effects of weightlessness. His work was mainly in the fields of bio-medicine and remote sensing.
The crew held a joint television news conference with officials in Moscow and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. "Saare Jahan Se Achcha", said Sqn Ldr Sharma when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked him how India looked from outer space.
That was also a proud moment for millions of Indians who watched India become the 14th nation to send a man to outer space. Sqn Ldr Rakesh Sharma was awarded the Ashoka Chakra Award, for the successful completion of the Space Mission. As were his Soviet companions Malyshev and Strekalov. This is the first and the only time, the Ashoka Chakra was awarded to foreigners.
Sqn Ldr Rakesh Sharma later joined HAL as a Test Pilot and was involved in the testing of various aircraft being manufactured at Ojhar near Nasik . During this time he had a lucky escape when he had to eject from a MiG-21. 5 years ago
He was conferred with the honour of Hero of Soviet Union upon his return from space. The Government of India conferred its highest gallantry award (during peace time), the Ashoka Chakra on him and the other two Soviet members of his mission.
He retired with the rank of Wing Commander. He joined the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in 1987 and served as Chief Test Pilot in the HAL Nashik Division until 1992, before moving on to Bangalore to work as the Chief Test Pilot of HAL. He retired from test flying in 2013.
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