Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, AC (born 13 January 1949) is an Indian former Air Force pilot who flew aboard Soyuz T-11 on 3 April 1984 as part of the Soviet Interkosmos programme. He is the only Indian citizen to travel in space, although there have been other astronauts of Indian origin who travelled to space, who were not Indian citizens.[1][2] Another Air Force pilot, Ravish Malhotra, was placed on standby.[3]

Rakesh Sharma

Rakesh Sharma, as a Squadron Leader in the Indian Air Force
Born (1949-01-13) 13 January 1949 (age 75)
Alma materNational Defence Academy
Air Force Academy
Occupation(s)Fighter pilot at IAF
Research Cosmonaut at ISRO
Test pilot at HAL
Space career
Indian cosmonaut
Time in space
7d 21h 40m
Selection1982 Intercosmos (India)
MissionsSoyuz T-11/T-10
Mission insignia
Military career
Allegiance India
Service/branch Indian Air Force
Years of service1970 – 1990
Rank Wing Commander
Service number12396 F(P)
Battles/wars1971 Indo-Pakistani War
Awards Ashok Chakra
Hero of the Soviet Union
Spouse(s)Madhu Sharma

Early life edit

Born on 13 January 1949 in Patiala of present-day Punjab, India into a Punjabi family migrated from Bahawalpur of Pakistan.[4] Sharma attended St. George's Grammar School, Hyderabad[4] and graduated from Nizam College, Hyderabad. He joined the National Defence Academy as an air force plebe in July 1966[5] and was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a pilot in 1970.[6] He flew 21 combat missions as a MiG-21 pilot during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.[7]

Career edit

IAF career edit

An alumnus of the 35th National Defence Academy, Sharma joined the Indian Air Force as a test pilot in 1970 and progressed through numerous levels where in 1984 he was promoted to the rank of squadron leader.[4] He was selected on 20 September 1982 to become a cosmonaut and go into space as part of a joint programme between the Indian Air Force and the Soviet Interkosmos space programme.[8]

Cosmonaut edit

Back-up cosmonaut Ravish Malhotra's suit restored at Nehru Planetarium

In 1984, Sharma became the first Indian citizen to enter space when he flew aboard the Soviet rocket Soyuz T-11 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic on 3 April 1984. The Soyuz T-11 spacecraft carrying cosmonauts including Sharma docked and transferred the three member Soviet-Indian international crew, consisting of the ship's commander, Yury Malyshev, and flight engineer, Gennadi Strekalov, to the Salyut 7 Orbital Station. Sharma spent 7 days, 21 hours, and 40 minutes aboard the Salyut 7 during which his team conducted scientific and technical studies which included forty-three experimental sessions. His work was mainly in the fields of bio-medicine and remote sensing.[8] The crew held a joint television news conference with officials in Moscow and then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. When Indira Gandhi asked Sharma how India looked from outer space, he replied, "Sare Jahan Se Accha" (better than the whole world). This is the title of a patriotic poem by Iqbal that had been written when India was under British colonial rule, that continues to be popular today. With Sharma's voyage aboard Soyuz T-11, India became the 14th nation to send a man to outer space.[8]

Post-retirement edit

Sharma retired as a wing commander and later joined Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in 1987, serving as the chief test pilot in the HAL Nashik Division until 1992, before moving on to Bangalore to work as HAL's chief test pilot. Sharma retired from flying in 2001.[1]

Military awards and decorations edit

Sharma was conferred the honour of the Hero of the Soviet Union upon his return from space. He remains to date the only Indian to have been conferred this honour. India also conferred its highest peacetime gallantry award, the 'Ashoka Chakra', on him and the two Soviet members of his mission, Malyshev and Strekalov.[8]

The citation for the Ashoka Chakra reads as follows:[9]

Gazette Notification: No.57-Pres/85 dated 7th May 1985

Date of Award: 3 April 1984

Ashoka Chakra citation



(12396) FLYING (PILOT)

In January 1982, when it was decided that an Indian would go into space on a Soviet space ship, Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma volunteered for this very challenging mission. After a very rigorous selection process, which included a most exacting medical test, he was selected as one of the two cosmonaut candidates from among 150 highly qualified and experienced pilots of the Indian Air Force. After his selection, he underwent training as a cosmonaut at YURI GAGARIN CENTRE in the USSR, where he applied himself with total devotion and dedication and won acclaim from Soviet Space experts. Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma completed a most arduous training schedule, with distinction and with exceptional professionalism.

On 3 April 1984, Sqn Ldr Rakesh Sharma became the first Indian to orbit in space. He carried out all the scientific experiments planned for the joint Indo-Soviet Space Mission and other tasks assigned to him with great facility and excellence. Sqn Ldr Sharma has not only carved out a place for himself in the space roll of honour but has brought glory and credit to the nation.

Squadron leader Rakesh Sharma has thus displayed most conspicuous daring and courage to become the first Indian to go into space.

Ribbon bar edit

Ashok Chakra Paschimi Star Sangram Medal
Sainya Seva Medal Videsh Seva Medal 25th Anniversary of Independence Medal 9 Years Long Service Medal

Personal life edit

Sharma married Madhu. His son, Kapil, is a film director,[10] while his daughter, Krittika, is a media artist.[citation needed]

Popular culture edit

A biographical Hindi-language film titled, Saare Jahaan Se Achcha (formerly "Salute"), is under pre-production since 2018.[11]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Cosmonaut Biography: Rakesh Sharma". Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  2. ^ "Rakesh Sharma". Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  3. ^ "Cosmonaut Biography: Ravish Malhotra".
  4. ^ a b c "Rakesh Sharma". Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  5. ^ Tragedy and triumph in orbit : the eighties and early nineties. Springer. June 2012. ISBN 978-1-4614-3430-6.
  6. ^ "Service Record for Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma 12396 F(P) at Bharat". Bharat Rakshak.
  7. ^ "Rakesh Sharma | Biography & Space Journey | Britannica". 3 March 2024. Retrieved 9 March 2024.
  8. ^ a b c d Srinivasan, Pankaja (4 April 2010). "The down to earth Rakesh Sharma". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 24 July 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  9. ^ "Gallantry Awards | Ministry of Defence, Government of India".
  10. ^ Gupta, Priya. "Indian man has not kept pace with Indian woman: Kapil Sharma - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  11. ^ "Farhan Akhtar Finalised to Star in Rakesh Sharma Biopic?". TheQuint. 30 July 2020. Retrieved 25 November 2020.

External links edit