Gopi Thotakura to become 1st Indian space tourist

PTI, Apr 13, 2024, 10:41 AM IST

Gopi Thotakura (Source: Gopi Thotakura / Linkedin)

Washington DC: Gopi Thotakura, an entrepreneur and a pilot, is set to become the first Indian to venture into space as a tourist on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin’s NS-25 mission.

Thotakura was selected as one of the six crew members for the mission, making him the first Indian space tourist and the second Indian to venture into space after the Indian Army’s Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma in 1984.

The flight date is yet to be announced, the aerospace company said.

This mission will be 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.” 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. A lifelong traveller, his most recent adventure took him to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Andhra Pradesh-born Thotakura is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. 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.

During the flight, each astronaut will carry 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 said.

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