Rakesh Sharma was born in Patiala on January 13, 1949. He is the first Indian citizen to reach outer space on April 2, 1984. He spent 7 days, 21 hours and 40 minutes in space.
He went to space as a part of a joint programme between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Soviet Intercosmos space programme.
Interestingly, Rakesh Sharma had taken Indian food to space with the help of Defense Food Research Lab situated in Mysore. They had packed suji halwa, aloo choley and veg pulao which Sharma shared with fellow astronauts. His work in space was focused on areas of biomedicine and remote sensing. In order to cope with space sickness, Sharma took to 'zero gravity yoga'.
When the then PM of India, Indira Gandhi asked Sharma how does India look from the outer space, Sharma said "Saare Jahaan se Achcha". He said that the most beautiful moments in space were that of sunrise and sunset.
Apart from being the first Indian to stay in space, Rakesh Sharma is also the first Indian to have been conferred with the 'Hero of Soviet Union' award. He was also awarded Ashok Chakra alongwith his Russian co astronauts Yuri Malyshev and Genadi Strekalov.
Sharma retired from the Indian Air Force as a Wing Commander. He joined the HAL in 1987 and was a chief test pilot in the Nashik Division of HAL.