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Gopi Thotakura made history as first Indian tourist in space

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In a historic feat, Indian-origin pilot Gopi Thotakura etched his name in the annals of space exploration as the first Indian tourist to venture into space on Blue Origin’s NS-25 mission. He is the second Indian to go to space after Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma in 1984. Six astronauts, including Thotakura, went on a space trip on Sunday.

They boarded Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket and capsule (NS-25), which launched from West Texas, USA, at 9:36 am local time. Blue Origin posted a video on its official Instagram showing Thotakura with a small Indian flag in space.

Thotakura's passion for aviation traces back to his early years, mastering the skies before he could even manoeuvre terrestrial roads. He co-founded Preserve Life Corp, a wellness centre near Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport. His aviation prowess extends across a diverse spectrum, from commanding commercial jets to navigating bush planes, aerobatic marvels, seaplanes, gliders, and even hot air balloons. His repertoire also includes serving as an international medical jet pilot. Originally from Andhra Pradesh, he graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

The NS-25 mission represented the seventh human flight for Blue Origin, signifying the 25th flight within the New Shepard program's timeline. Throughout this mission, a total of 31 individuals have been carried past the Kármán line, the widely recognised frontier of outer space. New Shepard is a suborbital spacecraft designed for space tourism, developed by Blue Origin with a focus on reusability.

The NS-25 crew also included Mason Angel, Sylvain Chiron, Kenneth L. Hess, Carol Schaller, and Ed Dwight, a former Air Force Captain who was the first black astronaut candidate selected by President Kennedy in 1961 but never flew to space. During the flight, each astronaut carried a postcard for Blue Origin’s Club for the Future program, aiming to inspire careers in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) fields.

New Shepard focuses on environmental sustainability by reusing nearly all of its dry mass, such as the booster and capsule. Its engine operates on efficient liquid oxygen and hydrogen, resulting in the emission of solely water vapour as a byproduct, devoid of any carbon emissions.

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