The Story of Rakesh Sharma, India’s First Astronaut & Space Hero

Rakesh Sharma

Beyond the Blue: The Journey of Rakesh Sharma, India’s First Astronaut

Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma is a former Indian Air Force pilot. He 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. Another Air Force pilot, Ravish Malhotra, was placed on standby.

Short Biography of Rakesh Sharma, an Indian former Air Force pilot

NameRakesh Sharma
Date of BirthJanuary 13, 1949
Place of BirthPatiala, Punjab, India
EducationBachelor of Science in Aeronautics
National Defence Academy, Pune, India
Air Force Test Pilot School, United States
Military ServiceIndian Air Force (1966-1984)
Squadron Leader
Space AgencySoviet space program (Intercosmos)
Space MissionSoyuz T-11 (April 2-11, 1984)
First Indian in space
AwardsAshoka Chakra (1984)
Hero of the Soviet Union (1984)
Padma Bhushan (1984)
Post-Space CareerRetired from the Indian Air Force (1984)
Worked in public sector undertakings
Active in various educational and philanthropic

Early life of Rakesh Sharma

Rakesh Sharma was born on 13th January 1949 in Patiala of present-day Punjab, India into a Punjabi. He attended St. George’s Grammar School, Hyderabad and graduated from Nizam College, Hyderabad. In July 1966, he joined the National Defence Academy as an air force plebe.

IN 1970, he was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a pilot. He flew 21 combat missions as a Mig-21 pilot during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.

Personal life

Rakesh Sharma married Madhu. The couple have one son & one daughter. His son, Kapil, is a film director, & his daughter, Krittika, is a media artist.

Career of Rakesh Sharma

IAF career

In 1970, an alumnus of the 35th National Defence Academy, Sharma joined the Indian Air Force as a test pilot. He progressed through numerous levels where in 1984 he was promoted to the rank of squadron leader.

On 20 September 1982, Sharma was selected 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.


In 1984, Rakesh 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. It 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.

Rakesh Sharma spent 7 days, 21 hours, and 40 minutes aboard the Salyut 7 during that time his team conducted scientific and technical studies which included forty-three experimental sessions. Sharma’s work was mainly in the fields of bio-medicine and remote sensing.

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” (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. With Sharma’s voyage aboard Soyuz T-11, India became the 14th nation to send a man to outer space.


In 1987, Sharma retired as a wing commander and later joined Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). He served 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.

Military awards and decorations

Rakesh Sharma was conferred the honour of the Hero of the Soviet Union upon his return from space. Up to now he is 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.

Popular culture

A biographical Hindi-language film titled, Saare Jahaan Se Achcha (formerly “Salute”), is under pre-production since 2018.

Are you an Entrepreneur or Startup?
Do you have a Success Story to Share?
SugerMint would like to share your success story.
We cover entrepreneur Stories, Startup News, Women entrepreneur stories, and Startup stories

Read more Success stories of Indian entrepreneurs, Women Entrepreneurs & startups stories at SugerMint. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn