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India's first astronaut Rakesh Sharma ready for space

Wednesday, 11 September 2002, 00:00 Hrs
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CHENNAI: Nearly 15 years after India's first astronaut Rakesh Sharma went into space, he says he is ready to head for the stars again.

With peppered hair, today the bespectacled Sharma is an IT expert. But the 53-year-old former Indian Air Force officer says his love for space has not ended.

"At 71, John Glenn returned to space. I am ready too," he says, adding that he would love a second chance to go back and have another look at Earth from space.

Sharma still draws admiration as was evident in the thundering accolades from 500-odd schoolchildren packed in the B.M. Birla Planetarium here Monday.

He was the chief guest at a function by the Russian Culture Center, the Tamil Nadu Science and Technology Center and the Velammal Educational Trust, a local educational organization "Saluting Pioneers in Space", to commemorate man's space odyssey.

He told his avid listeners: "Space is a great place to visit but if you want to settle down, the best place is Earth."

He said space could only be "a workplace. For it to be home, I need to be surrounded by people. Earth is our only home and we need to keep our environment absolutely free form pollution."

In April 1984, as the entire nation watched his feat on television, he told then prime minister Indira Gandhi that from outer space India looked "sare jahaan se aachha (better than the whole world)" -- words by poet Iqbal.

Sharma also demonstrated yoga postures that he and the Russians did on board Soyuz T-11 space shuttle trip.

The difference between now and then was that in space, "under zero gravity" all the yoga had to be done firmly anchored to a rope on the floor of the spaceship, Sharma said.

Literally answering hundreds of questions on zero gravity, he recalled that during his space trip, some water had spilled from a container and rose up in a bubble. It could be dangerous to machinery, floating around as it did.

So what did Sharma and the two Russian spacemen do? They just floated up to the big bubble and sucked in the water. A solution apt for space, also a remarkable example of cooperation of a kind, he said.

Russian Culture Center director Alexie V. Solodoc said: "The space program brought the best in technology and in the men as it put everyone through the toughest of challenges."

The cooperation between India and Russia still continues, said Russian consul general M.M. Mgeladze, present on the occasion. "There are almost a hundred projects in India in which Russian technological cooperation exists."

Referring to the Koodankulam light water nuclear power project and the multimillion-dollar cooperation with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, he said the Russian federation also supports India's position that "assistance to terrorism should be stopped".

Portraits of astronauts Yuri Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova, and of course, Rakesh Sharma were unveiled at the planetarium's exhibition hall.



Source: IANS
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