In September 1982, India created history when its first citizen landed on space. Former Indian AirForce (IAF) pilot Rakesh Sharma who was selected as part of a joint programme by ISRO and the Soviet Intercosmos space programme flew on board Soviet rocket Soyuz T-11 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic and became the first Indian to reach space.
Many of us knew about this man (Rakesh Sharma) who made India proud but what most of us have missed is another man who was also part of this mission.
Yes, there is another proud face of India who was the backup astronaut for the same space mission in 1984 but left unnoticed. I am going to tell you about the story of Kirti Chakra recipient Air Commodore (Retd) Ravish Malhotra who was almost the first one to reach space
Born on 25 December 1943 in Lahore, Ravish Malhotra was an Air Force test pilot stationed at the test center in Bangalore. He was also the Air Officer Commanding of Hindon Air Force Station near Delhi.
Although Ravish wanted to serve in a navy but life had another plans for him. Life wanted to present him with such a wonderful opportunity. When Ravish underwent selection phase for joining Navy he was told that he doesn’t satisfy certain medical criteria for the recruitment.
He was told his eyesight is not good enough for joining the navy. This shattered his dream for being part of Navy but presented him with another wonderful opportunity of joining Air Force. This led to his new journey and he accepted the offer of joining the Airforce
He became a fighter pilot and also fought the Indo-Pak war of 1971 in which he nearly just escaped death while on the mission. After the war, that golden opportunity aroused which changed the life of Ravish Malhotra forever.
The Government of India decided to send pilots to Russia for training them to travel to space. The main criteria for selection were a fit fighter pilot.
Luck favoured him and Ravish Malhotra was among the four pilots shortlisted for the mission out of the total twenty along with Rakesh Sharma. After the medical tests in Russia, the duo was selected for a training that lasted two years and encompassed everything from tech to learning Russian. This was because everything ranging from the instrumentation to markings on the spacecraft was in the language.
After the duo successfully completed half of their training in Russia it was decided that wing commander Rakesh Sharma would be in the main team and Ravish Malhotra in the backup.
Although it was little disappointing for Air Commodore Ravish Malhotra after reaching so far but still he accepted it and said bravely “We both knew, in the beginning, that there were two of us. Only one is going to space, and the other one is going to stay back. Nevertheless, it was an experience no other Indian other than Ricky (Rakesh Sharma) and I had.
The mission was a success and Rakesh Sharma marked his name in Indian history as the first Indian man to reach space till date. However, we can’t ignore the contribution of Air Commodore Ravish Malhotra also in the mission. It’s our duty to make the nation aware of all such unsung heroes.
Big salute to Air Commodore Ravish Malhotra !!!
Source : India Times