Home INDIA “Pioneering Gaganyatri”: ISRO Chief Applauds India’s Only Astronaut

“Pioneering Gaganyatri”: ISRO Chief Applauds India’s Only Astronaut

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'Groundbreaking Gaganyatri': ISRO chief hails India's only astronaut


New Delhi:

Bharat is still “saare jahan se accha (best in the world),” said Rakesh Sharma, the country’s first-ever cosmonaut, celebrating the 40th anniversary of that historic flight. Closely associated with the country’s new effort to put four cosmonauts in space, Mr. Sharma , who is now 75 years old, said he would like to take another flight, but only as a “tourist”.

“There was too much work. I just want to put my nose to the window (this time) and enjoy the sights of Mother Earth from space,” he told WhatsNew2Day in an exclusive interview.

Today, as India prepares for its first human spaceflight as part of Mission Gaganyaan, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is also looking at that golden moment from four decades ago.

“Squad leader Rakesh Sharma’s journey to space not only inspired Bharat but also symbolized the limitless potential of human endeavour,” said S Somanath, the chairman of the space research organisation, who was 21 years old at the time.

“On this 40th anniversary of historic spaceflight, let us take a moment to honor his remarkable achievement and the indelible mark he left on Indian space exploration,” he added.

History was made on April 3, 1984, when Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma took off on a Soviet missile and became India’s first ‘Gaganyatri’ – a term the country made official. He spent 7 days and 21 hours on the Soviet space station.

His conversation with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi – beamed to every home by Doordarshan – had enraptured the nation. To her question”Upar se Bharat kaisa lag raha hai (What does India look like from above),” he had responded with the famous line written by Alama Iqbal: “Saare jahan se acchaMr Sharma told WhatsNew2Day today that the line was not rehearsed at all. He sang the legendary song in school, so it came naturally.

ISRO now hopes to send one of the four designated astronauts into space from Sriharikota as part of its Gaganyaan mission. The missile is said to be of Indian origin and as Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “This time the countdown will be ours too.”

Group captain Ravish Malhotra, who trained with Sharma and was a standby cosmonaut, never flew into space. Now 81 years old, he has helped found one of India’s most vibrant aerospace companies: Dynamatic Technologies in Bengaluru.

Speaking about him, Mr. Sharma said, “I was fortunate to be selected to go into space. I would like to emphasize that it was pure luck because between my colleague Ravish Sir and myself I can claim no special quality. that was only present in me and not in him.”

Mr Sharma is now helping ISRO train the four astronauts assigned for the Gaganyaan mission.

Mr Sharma had trained in yoga before his flight and performed it while in a near-gravity state. The practice had earned him the nickname “the world’s first Antriksh Yogi”.

“Purists will find the yoga I performed naive. But doing it in weightlessness is not easy and a quality harness is needed to keep the Yogi in the space,” he said.

Sources in ISRO say yoga is now part of the routine of the ‘Fabulous Four’, as the Gaganyatri is often called.

Mr Somanath said Mr Sharma has been the “supporter, promoter and advisor for the development of Gaganyaan”.

“He continues to support ISRO in many ways to develop human spaceflight capabilities. He continues to be a path-breaking Gaganyatri for India as the four candidates follow in his footsteps as part of Mission Gaganyaan,” he added.

Mr Sharma said he is eagerly awaiting the day when he will be joined by an Indian in that elite club of ‘Universe Gazers’.

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