BANGALORE: April 3, 1984. Seven days, 21 hours and 40 minutes. The time logged by India’s first man in space, Rakesh Sharma. After his spacecraft Soyuz T-11 docked at the Salut 7 station, he sent the famous Saare Jahan Se Achcha message to earth.
Twenty-eight years later, the retired Wing Commander, now settled in Coonoor, feels India missed an opportunity. “We are still talking about yesterday’s glory. Not enough is being done on the manned space flight front,” Sharma, the 128th man in space, said.
He said European nations have made inroads with their astronauts training with the Americans and Russians.
“We should have done the same and by now we would have had the same expertise. Funding is the key and that seems to be too little and is trickling in too late,” he said.
Sharma said it was the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) job to convince the government on why a manned space mission is required. “The government is lacking in vision. Projects of this kind cannot sputter along as and when funding arrives. It needs to feed off the josh of doing something challenging that has never been done before,” he added.
Asked whether he would be happy to chip in, Sharma said he is ready, but wouldn’t muscle his way in. “If they need me, I’m available. But I have never been in the loop since 1984,” he said.
“It is going to be just another day for me here. I am happy reading, writing and gardening,” Sharma said.
At 63, may be he feels Coonoor is indeed Saare Jahan Se Achcha.