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20/05/24 | 10:46 am

Andhra-born Gopi Thotakura makes history, becomes first Indian space tourist

Indian expatriate Gopi Thotakura made history as the first Indian space tourist and the second Indian to venture into space, joining the crew for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin’s NS-25 mission.

Blue Origin successfully completed its seventh human spaceflight and the 25th flight for the New Shepard program on Sunday.

Hailing from Andhra Pradesh, Gopi Thotakura was one of six crew members. The astronaut crew also included Mason Angel, Sylvain Chiron, Kenneth L. Hess, Carol Schaller, and former Air Force Captain Ed Dwight. Dwight was selected by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 as the nation’s first black astronaut candidate but never had the opportunity to fly, according to Blue Origin’s official website.

With this mission, New Shepard has now flown 37 people into space, including today’s crew.

Phil Joyce, Senior Vice President of New Shepard, expressed gratitude, saying, “A big thank you to our astronaut customers for the opportunity to provide this life-changing experience. Each of you are pioneers helping to advance our mission to build a road to space for the benefit of Earth.”

Earlier in an interview, Thotakura shared his dream and passion for flying, highlighting how the mission aims to protect Mother Earth. He discussed the potential of space tourism to open new avenues, making it affordable and accessible for civilians.

Reflecting on his emotions, Thotakura said, “I can’t express my feelings right now because it’s something that isn’t in the urban dictionary. It’s something I take with me. I always tell people that from the moment you are born until the time you leave, you wake up and want to see the sky, want to breathe, but I wanted this opportunity to do the reverse, to go up there and look down”.

“Movies do a fantastic job, but to see what the naked eye can see, you have to experience it yourself. The whole excitement is about looking back and seeing what’s happening, without being documented or through someone else’s eyes.”

He also emphasized Blue Origin’s tagline, “For the benefit of Earth,” and stressed the importance of protecting Mother Earth. “It is to protect Mother Earth that they are seeking life and adventure outside the planet,” he said.

Each astronaut carried a postcard to space on behalf of Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future. The club’s mission is to inspire and mobilise future generations to pursue careers in STEAM for the benefit of Earth.

Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, a former Indian Air Force pilot, was the first Indian citizen to fly to space in 1984.

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