Back in 1984, Rakesh Sharma made India proud as the first Indian in space. But have you heard about this backup astronaut Ravish for the same mission, who almost became the first Indian in space?
Every time someone asks us who was the first Indian in space? The name on the tip of all of our tongues is wing commander Rakesh Sharma.
This story is about Ravish Malhotra, a recipient of Kirti Chakra, who almost became the first Indian in space.
He was born on December 25, 1943, in Lahore, which is now part of present-day Pakistan.
Ravish dreamt of serving in the navy, but destiny had a different plan for him. During the selection process, he learned that his eyesight was better suited for the air force, which was urgently in need of cadets at the time. Thus, he joined the air force and pursued his passion as a fighter pilot.
He had a close call with death during the 1971 Indo-Pak war when his plane was attacked while targeting tanks in West Pakistan. He was lucky to escape unhurt despite the heavy gunfire.
After the war, he got an exciting chance to go to space. The government chose pilots for training in Russia, and Ravish and Rakesh were selected from 20 candidates. They passed the tests in Russia and were picked for the mission.
During their two-year training in Russia, Ravish and Rakesh learned Russian as everything in the spacecraft was in that language. They were also trained for various space missions, including testing the effects of yoga in space.
Halfway through the training, the decision was made to send Rakesh Sharma into space and have Ravish Malhotra as the backup. Despite his disappointment, Ravish accepted the decision. The mission was a success, and Rakesh Sharma became the first Indian man in space. They were celebrated all over the country upon their return.
As we honor the brave pioneers, let’s also remember those lesser-known heroes who were almost as successful. Their contributions are just as important, so let’s give them the recognition they deserve.
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