Back in 1984, Rakesh Sharma etched his name in history by becoming the first Indian to venture into space. His remarkable journey as an astronaut and wing commander spanned seven days, 21 hours, and 40 minutes, a feat that propelled India’s pride to unparalleled heights.
Fast forward to July 2023, a glimpse into Rakesh Sharma’s life surfaced online, shedding light on his tranquil existence in a village in Tamil Nadu, India. Alongside his wife, Madhu, Rakesh finds solace in the serene surroundings of Coonoor, where they deliberately maintain a low-profile and lead an understated life.
Previously, in 2021, Rakesh Sharma held the position of non-executive chairman at Cadila Labs, a Bengaluru-based firm specializing in intelligent automation solutions for the insurance sector. Moreover, his influential role within the National Advisory Council for ISRO’s Gaganyaan mission underscores his ongoing dedication to India’s space endeavors.
Reflecting on Chandrayaan-3‘s imminent lunar landing, Rakesh Sharma expressed unwavering confidence in ISRO’s capabilities, stating, “Given ISRO’s track record, I can confidently say that Chandrayaan-3 will achieve a safe landing.” He commended ISRO’s remarkable journey over the past four decades and the groundbreaking programs that have consistently defied expectations.
Rakesh Sharma’s journey began in Patiala, Punjab, where he displayed a tenacious commitment to education and training. He attended esteemed institutions like St. Ann’s High School, St. George’s Grammar School, and Nizam College in Hyderabad. His aspirations for a military career led him to the prestigious 35th National Defence Academy (NDA) in Pune.
Joining the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 1970, Rakesh Sharma soared as a test pilot, ultimately attaining the rank of squadron leader by 1984. During the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, he showcased his exceptional skills, participating in 21 combat sorties while flying the MiG-21.
Rakesh Sharma’s pivotal role in the Soviet-Indian space program materialized in 1982, leading him to rigorous training at Moscow’s Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. Aboard Soyuz T-11, he embarked on his space odyssey alongside two Soviet cosmonauts. His remarkable achievements earned him the distinguished title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
Following his retirement as a Wing Commander in 1987, Rakesh Sharma transitioned to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as its chief test pilot. Although he narrowly escaped a potentially fatal incident during a MiG-21 test flight in Ozar, Nashik, in 2001, he decided to hang up his pilot’s cap. Since then, he has embraced a serene existence in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, where he indulges in pursuits like golf, gardening, yoga, reading, and travel, savoring a life well-lived.