April 3 of 1984 will be considered as a red letter day in the space history of India. On this lucky day our Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma, a test pilot of Indian Army became the first space man of this great country. He along with two Soviet men voyaged into space abroad Soyuz T-II spaceship which was hurled into space from Baikonur cosmodrome in the Soviet Union. The rocket has three stages and it weighted 300 tonnes. It was blasted off into space at 6.30 p.m. (1ST) on April 3, 1984.
Yuri Gagarin, the father of space flight when visited India in 1972, expressed his hope that a day would come when the family of cosmonauts would be joined by a citizen of India. His hope came true after a lapse of about 22 years.
Rakesh Sharma, Malyshev and Strekalove were launched into orbit aboard Soyuz T-II atop a three stage rocked which was blasted off at 6.33 p.m. (1ST) On April 3, 1984 from Baikonour in USSR. The blast was very smooth and within 9 minutes, Soyuz T-II was in low earth orbit at 283 kilometers. This space-ship traveled at an average speed of 8 kilometers per second to dock with the already orbiting Soviet Spaceship Salyut-7. This is a space station a laboratory and the home for the cosmonauts of space where three cosmonauts (to spend next seven days to carry out a number of science experiments.
The President of our country congratulated the three cosmonauts in these great pleasure in extending my warm felicitations and greeting \ and the Indian friends participating in the space venture.” Our worthy Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi who, also sent them wished on her own behalf and on behalf of Indian nation, said with great satisfaction, “Months of intensive planning and efforts have come out success-full”.
Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma was the 138th cosmonaut in the world. He was the 11th foreign cosmonaut to fly with the Soviet spacemen. India thus is 14th country to send her cosmonaut into the space in a spaceship. All the three spacemen orbited round the earth 120 times before they could return to the earth. They parachuted back on earth on the 11th April, 1984.
The Soyut spaceship was tracked down by a large network of tracking stations in the Soviet Union and even in India. The mission control near Moscow controlled the spaceship as such. A six member Indian technical team also was stationed there to help cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma in his space experiments which the latter carried on with the help of instruments that he carried.
The three cosmonaut were given the task of docking with Salyut 7 wh ich they did successfully. This feat was accomplished on April 4 at 8.02 (1ST) when the Soviet space-ship Soyuz-II was on its 18th orbit round the earth. The cosmonauts successfully carried out the job of checking the systems working within the spaceship. All the controls and systems worked smoothly.
Shri Rakesh Sharma has carried out certain experiments into space. He conducted research into yoga. The researches also included metallurgical and technological surveys of the earth. He photographed about 20 per cent of the Indian territory when his spaceship passed over India while orbiting round the earth. This Indo-Soviet work has given an unique opportunity to the Indian scientists to conduct some original experiments in the field of space. Shri Sharma brought back to earth these photographs. The analysis of the photographs will enable experts to forecast hurricances, cyclones and dust storms.
On April 5, Shrimati Indira Gandhi had a short conversation with Shri Rakesh Sharma. This conversation was televised to earth. She has a talk with other cosmonauts also. She said to them that they had added to the scientific knowledge of the world around us and particularly the mysterious cosmic space.
It is a great credit for India that for the first time a few Indian dishes were given to the cosmonauts. These dishes were prepared by the Defense Food Research Laboratory, Bangalore. The food items were made to suit the weightlessness inside the ship craft. The set the table there, to use a fork or knife and to pour out soup or slice bread is quite impossible because these things start floating.
India’s prestige has risen very high in this venture1. Now she is planning to send Indian cosmonauts into the space in her own spaceship in near future from Indian Launching Station.