Gopi Thotakura makes history as India's first space tourist

Entrepreneur and pilot Gopi Thotakura made history on Sunday as the first Indian space tourist when he joined Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin on the New Shepard (NS-25) mission. Thotakura was one of six crew members selected for this flight on Blue Origin's NS-25 mission. He became the second Indian to venture into space, after Indian Army Commander-in-Chief Rakesh Sharma's journey in 1984.

Blue Origin's seventh manned flight, NS-25, took off from Launch Site One in West Texas on Sunday morning, announced on social media. This mission was the 25th flight in the history of the New Shepard program, which has so far taken 31 people beyond the Kármán Line, the recognized boundary of space. The New Shepard is a reusable suborbital vehicle developed by Blue Origin for space tourism.

“A big thank you to our astronaut customers for the opportunity to make this life-changing experience possible. Each of you is a pioneer, helping advance our mission to build a road to space for the benefit of Earth,” said Phil Joyce, senior vice president of New Shepard.

Thotakura, who learned to fly before he could drive, co-founded Preserve Life Corp, a wellness center near Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta. He has extensive pilot experience, flying everything from commercial aircraft to bush planes, aerobatic aircraft, seaplanes, gliders and hot air balloons. He has also served as an international medical jet pilot. An avid adventurer, Thotakura recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. He is originally from Andhra Pradesh and graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

The NS-25 crew 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 into space .

During the flight, each astronaut carried a postcard for Blue Origin's Club for the Future, a program that encourages students to explore space and pursue careers in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and technology) through creative postcard submissions mathematics).

For environmental reasons, New Shepard reuses almost 99% of its dry matter, including key components such as booster and capsule. Its engine efficiently uses liquid oxygen and hydrogen and produces only water vapor as a byproduct with no carbon emissions.

Various symbols were featured on the NS-25 mission patch: the Gemini spacecraft symbolizing Dwight's aerospace era, a hand lifting the capsule as a nod to his artwork, a sunrise for Angel and Schaller's Overview Effect objectives, and mountains as Symbol for the climbing passions of Schaller, Thotakura and Chiron. Blue Origin previously paused its tourism program following a New Shepard malfunction in September 2022. In September 2022, an unmanned New Shepard flight burst into flames about a minute after takeoff.

Sybil Alvarez

"Incurable gamer. Infuriatingly humble coffee specialist. Professional music advocate."

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