Nearly four decades after his historic voyage into space, many Indians are curious about the present-day life of wing commander Rakesh Sharma, the pioneering astronaut who became the first Indian citizen to travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere. This in-depth article explores whether Sharma is still alive today and what he has been up to since his momentous spaceflight in 1984.
Revisiting Rakesh Sharma’s Pivotal Achievement as India’s First Space Traveler
On April 3, 1984, Rakesh Sharma rocketed into the cosmos aboard the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz T-11, catapulting India onto the global stage of human space exploration. During his week-long stay at the Salyut 7 space station, Sharma conducted scientific experiments and famously spoke with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, describing India as “Saare Jahan Se Accha” when viewed from space.
Sharma’s trailblazing mission established India as the 14th nation to send a human into orbit, eight years before astronaut Kalpana Chawla became the first Indian-born woman to reach space. For achieving this audacious feat, Sharma received the honors of Hero of the Soviet Union and India’s Ashoka Chakra, the nation’s highest peacetime award.
Where is Rakesh Sharma Now? Is he still Alive in 2023?
In the decades since his voyage aboard Soyuz T-11, Rakesh Sharma has largely avoided the media spotlight, preferring to lead a quiet retired life away from the public eye. He currently resides in the hilly district of Coonoor in Tamil Nadu, often described as the abode of peacocks.
Despite retreating from fame, Sharma remains actively engaged as an advisor with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), providing guidance for the upcoming Gaganyaan manned orbital mission. Recently on Aug 2023, he congratulated ISRO scientists when the Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander successfully touched down on the Moon’s surface.
According to limited reports, the now 74-year-old Sharma enjoys pursuing leisurely hobbies such as golfing, gardening, yoga, reading and travel. His passion for exploration evidently continues through these simple pleasures.
Was Sharma’s Life Always So Peaceful? Recalling His Military Career
While Rakesh Sharma’s current lifestyle evokes serenity, his past journeys were far more adrenaline-charged. Before becoming a cosmonaut, he led an illustrious career as an Indian Air Force pilot for over two decades.
Born on January 13, 1949 in Patiala, Sharma joined the air force in 1970 after training at the National Defence Academy. As a pilot, he flew planes ranging from Ajit and Kiran propeller aircraft to India’s first supersonic fighter jet, the MiG-21FL.
During the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War, Sharma demonstrated valor and competence by flying numerous combat air support missions. He was also a test pilot for India’s largest aerospace firm HAL, surviving a near-fatal crash during aircraft trials.
In 1982, Sharma’s aviation skills and physical endurance propelled him into the Soviet space program, changing his trajectory forever.
How Does Sharma’s Legacy Endure in India’s Space Plans Today?
While no Indian astronaut has repeated Sharma’s feat of traveling to space in nearly four decades, ISRO continues to push forward with its human spaceflight aspirations. Sharma himself plays an advisory role in these 21st century projects.
The Gaganyaan mission, aimed to launch Indian astronauts into low Earth orbit, is slated for 2024 after COVID-related delays. ISRO chairman S. Somanath has called Sharma an “encouraging figure” for upcoming spacefarers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also set an ambitious 2030 target for India’s first crewed orbital spacecraft. Hence, over 35 years after his achievement, Rakesh Sharma still serves as an inspiration driving India’s spacefaring future.
Final Reflections on Rakesh Sharma’s Pioneering Legacy
Rakesh Sharma’s remarkable odyssey from military pilot to first Indian in space makes him a celebrated pioneer both nationally and in the global history of human spaceflight.
While he continues to live humbly away from public attention, hisname remains etched among the constellations as an intrepid adventurer who transcended Earthly bounds. For generations to come, his legacy shall endure as a symbol of India’s scientific aspirations and quest for cosmic knowledge.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Who is Rakesh Sharma?
Rakesh Sharma is a former Indian Air Force pilot who became the first Indian citizen to travel to space. In 1984, he spent 7 days aboard the Soviet Salyut 7 space station as part of the Soviet Interkosmos program, making him India’s first astronaut.
2. Is Rakesh Sharma alive?
Yes, Rakesh Sharma is still alive today. As of 2023, he is now 74 years old and living a quiet retired life in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu out of the public eye. Though retired, he continues to be an advisor to ISRO on India’s human spaceflight program.
3. Where is Rakesh Sharma Now in 2023?
Rakesh Sharma currently resides in the hilly Coonoor district of Tamil Nadu, where he enjoys pastimes like golfing, gardening, yoga, reading, and travel. Though he shies away from fame now, he remains involved in India’s space program by advising ISRO.
4. What is Rakesh Sharma’s biggest achievement?
Rakesh Sharma’s biggest achievement is becoming the first Indian citizen to go to space when he flew on the Soviet Soyuz T-11 spacecraft in 1984. His historic week-long stay on the Salyut 7 space station put India on the map for human spaceflight.
5. What awards did Rakesh Sharma receive?
For his spaceflight achievement, Rakesh Sharma received the Soviet Union’s Hero of the Soviet Union award. India also awarded him the Ashoka Chakra, its highest peacetime gallantry award.