|Occupation||Test pilot at the Indian Air Force|
|Awards|| Ashoka Chakra |
Hero of the Soviet Union
Time in space
|7d 21h 40m|
|Missions||Soyuz T-11 (launching)|
Soyuz T-10 (landing)
|Service/||Indian Air Force|
Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, AC (born 13 January 1949) is a former Indian Air Force pilot who 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 with an Indian background who were not Indian citizens.
Born on 13 January 1949 in Patiala of present-day Punjab, India, Sharma attended St. George's Grammar School, Hyderabad and graduated from Nizam College, Hyderabad. He joined the National Defence Academy as an air force plebe in July 1966 and was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a pilot in 1970.
An alumnus of the 35th National Defence Academy, Sharma joined the Indian Air Force as a test pilot in 1970 and progressed through numerous levels where in 1984 he was promoted to the rank of squadron leader. He was selected on 20 September 1982 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, 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 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. 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. 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.
Sharma retired as a wing commander and later joined Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in 1987, serving 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.
Sharma was conferred the honour of the Hero of the Soviet Union upon his return from space. He remains to date 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.
|Ashok Chakra||Paschimi Star||Sangram Medal|
|Sainya Seva Medal||Videsh Seva Service Medal||25th Anniversary of Independence Medal||9 Years Long Service Medal|
Sharma married Madhu. His son, Kapil, is a film director, while his daughter, Krittika, is a media artist.
A biographical Hindi-language film titled, Saare Jahaan Se Achcha (formerly "Salute"), is under pre-production since 2018.