Open main menu

Rakesh Sharma (born 13 January 1949) is a former Indian Air Force pilot who flew aboard Soyuz T-11, launched on 2 April 1984, as part of the Interkosmos programme. Sharma is the first and the only Indian citizen to travel in space till date; although there have been other Indian origin cosmonauts and astronauts who were not Indian citizens.[1][2]

Rakesh Sharma

Rakesh Sharma 1.jpg
Rakesh Sharma in 2019
Born (1949-01-13) 13 January 1949 (age 70)
Patiala, Punjab, India
OccupationTest pilot at the Indian Air Force
AwardsAshoka Chakra ribbon.svg Ashok Chakra
Hero of the USSR Gold Star.pngHero of the Soviet Union
Space career
Time in space
7d 21h 40m
MissionsSoyuz T-11 / Soyuz T-10
Mission insignia
Soyuz T-11 mission patch.gif
Military career
Allegiance India
Service/branch Indian Air Force
RankWing Commander of IAF.png Wing Commander
ChildrenTwo, Kartika (daughter) and Kapil Sharma (son)

Early lifeEdit

Mr. Sharma was born on 13 January 1949 in Patiala, Punjab, India.[3] He attended St. Georges Grammar School, Hyderabad.[3] He graduated from Nizam College, Hyderabad. He joined the Indian Air Force as a cadet in 1966 at the age of 18.[citation needed] Thereafter, he was admitted to the National Defence Academy as an air force plebe in July 1966.[citation needed] Sharma was commissioned into the Indian Air Force to become a pilot in 1970.[citation needed]He was the first man from India to go into space.


Rakesh Sharma in military uniform

An alumnus of the 35th National Defence Academy, Sharma joined as a test pilot in the Indian Air Force in 1970. He flew various aircraft like Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) aircraft starting from 1971. Sharma progressed through numerous levels and in 1984, he was appointed as a squadron leader and pilot in the Indian Air Force.[3] He was selected on 20 September 1982 to become a cosmonaut and go into space as part of a joint program between the Indian Air Force and the Soviet Interkosmos space program.[4]

In 1984, he became the first Indian citizen to enter space when he flew aboard the Soviet rocket Soyuz T-11 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic on 2 April 1984. The Soyuz T-11 docked and transferred the three member Soviet-Indian international crew which also included 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.[4] The crew held a joint television news conference with officials in Moscow and then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. When Gandhi asked Sharma how India looked from outer space, he replied, "Sare Jahan Se Accha" (the best in the 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. India became the 14th nation to send a man to outer space.[4]

He retired with the rank of wing commander. He joined Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in 1987 and served as the 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 was also associated with the light combat aircraft, Tejas.[4]

Sharma retired from flying in 2001.[1]

Military awards and decorationsEdit

Rakesh Sharma was conferred with the honour of the Hero of the Soviet Union upon his return from space. India conferred its highest peacetime gallantry award, the Ashoka Chakra, on him and the other two Soviet members of his mission, Malyshev and Strekalov.[4]

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

Personal lifeEdit

He and his wife, Madhu, learned Russian during their stay in the Soviet Union in 1982. His son, Kapil, is a film director,[5] whilst his daughter, Kritika, is a media artist..

Popular cultureEdit

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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Cosmonaut Biography: Rakesh Sharma". Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  2. ^ "Rakesh Sharma". Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "Rakesh Sharma". Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e Srinivasan, Pankaja (4 April 2010). "The down to earth Rakesh Sharma". The Hindu. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Kapil Sharma on IMDB".

External linksEdit