Gopi Thotakura shares his excitement after becoming 1st Indian space tourist on Blue Origin’s NS-25 mission


PTI, May 20, 2024, 2:17 PM IST

Gopi Thotakura (L) with other members of the Blue Origin’s NS-25 mission. (Source: PTI)

Houston: Aviator Gopi Thotakura has said that he is proud to become the first Indian to venture into space as a tourist aboard Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin’s NS-25 mission.

Blue Origin’s seventh human flight carrying Thotakura, 30, and five others lifted off from Launch Site One in West Texas on Sunday and landed successfully.

He is the first Indian space tourist and the second Indian to venture into space after the Indian Army’s Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma in 1984.

”India into space,” he was heard saying from the spaceflight in a video posted by Blue Origin on X. He was also seen holding the small Indian flag.

The 30-year-old Andhra Pradesh-born entrepreneur and pilot was also seen holding a banner which read ”I am an eco-warrior for our sustainable planet”.

Other astronauts on 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 never had the opportunity to fly.

All the crew members were excited to be on the flight.

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

This mission was the seventh human flight for the New Shepard programme and the 25th in its history. To date, the programme has flown 31 humans above the Karman line, the proposed conventional boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

New Shepard is a fully reusable sub-orbital launch vehicle developed for space tourism by Blue Origin.

According to Blue Origin, ”Gopi is a pilot and aviator who learned how to fly before he could drive.” Gopi co-founded 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.

A lifelong traveller, his most recent adventure took him to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Thotakura is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

During the mission, the crew soared to more than three times the speed of sound. The rocket vaulted the capsule past the Kármán line, an area 100 kilometres above Earth’s surface that is widely recognized as the altitude at which outer space begins – but there’s a lot of grey area, CNN reported.

At the peak of the flight, passengers experienced a few minutes of weightlessness and striking views of Earth through the cabin windows, it added.

During the flight, each astronaut carried a postcard to space on behalf of Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future.

This 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.

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.

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 earlier said.

Bezos’ space company had paused its suborbital tourism programme following a liftoff malfunction of the New Shepard rocket. In September 2022, an uncrewed flight of New Shepard ended in flames around a minute after liftoff.

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