From Rakesh Sharma to Kalpana Chawla: Remember astronauts who made India proud
On the occasion of International Human Space Flight Day 2022, here are four astronauts, including Rakesh Sharma who made India proud. Let's remember their work in space.
Rakesh Sharma was India's first astronaut. He was in the Salyut 7 orbital station for 7 days, 21 hours, and 40 minutes. He is the only Indian citizen to have travelled in space, while there have been other astronauts of Indian descent who were not Indian nationals.
Sharma enraged the whole country when, in response to Prime Minister India Gandhi's question about how India seemed from space, he recalled poet Iqbal's legendary lines, "Saare jahan se achcha."
Kalpana Chawla was the first woman born in India to enter space. Chawla died on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003, along with her six crewmates. She travelled aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia for the first time in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. Chawla was one of seven crew members killed in the Columbia accident in 2003, when the spaceship destroyed upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.
Sunita Williams, the second Indian-American female astronaut at NASA, became a household name in India. She previously held the record for the most spacewalks by a woman (seven) and the longest spacewalk by a woman (50 hours, 40 minutes), both of which helped her earn international notice.
Sirisha Bandla, an aeronautical engineer, became the third Indian-origin woman to go into space, when she accompanied British billionaire Richard Branson on Virgin Galactic's first fully crewed suborbital test flight from New Mexico. Bandla travelled to the edge of space with Branson and five other passengers on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Unity from New Mexico.
Bandla, who was born in the Andhra Pradesh region of Guntur and raised in Houston, was astronaut No. 004, and her mission duty was Researcher Experience. Two pilots and three additional crew members, including billionaire Richard Branson, made up the rest of the team.