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Gopi Thotakura set to become India's first space tourist in Jeff Bezos' mission | Who is he?

Thotakura will join five other crew members, and each will carry a postcard to space on behalf of Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future. He will become the second Indian to venture into space after Indian Army's Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma in 1984.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Updated on: April 13, 2024 16:54 IST
Gopi Thotakura, Blue Origin
Image Source : X Gopi Thotakura set to become India's first space tourist

Washington: Gopi Thotakura, an entrepreneur and pilot, will become the first Indian to venture into space as a tourist aboard the NS-25 mission mission by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin. Thotakura was selected as one of the six crew members, which means he would become the first Indian space tourist and the second Indian to venture into space after Indian Army's Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma in 1984.

The flight date is yet to be announced, according to the aerospace company, but this will be the seventh human flight for the New Shephard programme and the 25th in human history. The New Shephard vehicle is a fully reusable sub-orbital launch vehicle designed for space tourism.

Other crew members of the flight include Mason Angel, Sylvain Chiron, Kenneth L. Hess, Carol Schaller, and former Air Force Captain Ed Dwight, who was selected by President John F Kennedy in 1961 as the nation’s first Black astronaut candidate but was never granted the opportunity to fly to space. Each astronaut will carry a postcard to space on behalf of Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future.

Who is Gopi Thotakura?

Andhra Pradesh-born pilot Gopichand Thotakura, 30, is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and also has an MBA in Aviation from Coventry University. He is the co-founder of Preserve Life Corp, a global centre for holistic wellness and applied health located near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

In addition to flying jets commercially, he pilots bush, aerobatic, and seaplanes, as well as gliders and hot air balloons, and has served as an international medical jet pilot. His most recent adventure took him to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Describing him, Blue Origin wrote, "Gopi is a pilot and aviator who learned how to fly before he could drive."

In an exclusive interview with news agency ANI, Thotakura talks about his dream and passion for flying and how the mission is working towards protecting Mother Earth. He further talks about space tourism and how it can open avenues and make it affordable and accessible for civilians. He asserted Blue Origin's tagline, 'For the benefit of Earth' and added that he also feels that protecting Mother Earth is important.

"I can't express my feelings right now because it is something that is not in the urban dictionary. It is something I take with me. I always tell people that right from when you are born till the time you leave, you wake up and want to see the sky, want to take a breath, but I want to have this opportunity to do the reverse, to go up there and see down here. Movies do a fantastic job but (to see) what the naked eye can see, you have to do that yourself," he said.

What is the New Shepard programme?

New Shepard’s engine is fuelled by highly efficient liquid oxygen and hydrogen. During the flight, the only byproduct is water vapour with no carbon emissions, the company said. From an environmental standpoint, nearly 99 per cent of New Shepard’s dry mass is reused, including the booster, capsule, engine, landing gear, and parachutes.

The spacecraft has a crew capsule that can hold six people and a booster rocket. It is fully autonomous, which means that none of the six crew members are involved in manning it. The NS-25 mission not only represents a "significant leap in personal space travel but also heralds a new era of sustainability in space exploration", Blue Origin said 

This New Shephard programme gives students access to space on Blue Origin’s rockets, including an all-digital method to create and send postcards. The Club’s mission is to inspire and mobilise future generations to pursue careers in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) for the benefit of Earth.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | SpaceX mega rocket loses spacecraft just 15 minutes before completing test flight

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