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Meet Gopichand Thotakura: Pioneering the Path as India's First Space Tourist aboard Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin

Gopi Thotakura, an Indian expatriate, may make history as the first Indian space tourist aboard Blue Origin's NS-25 mission.

The Blue Origin NS-25 mission recently unveiled its diverse six-person crew. Among them is Ed Dwight, who made history in 1961 as the first Black astronaut candidate selected by President John F. Kennedy. Despite not flying to space, his inclusion highlights the strides toward diversity in space exploration. Another notable member is Gopi Thotakura, potentially the first Indian space tourist.

Thotakura's journey echoes the aspirations of many Indians in space exploration. While he may not be the first Indian aiming for space, his inclusion marks a significant milestone. Santhosh George Kulangara, a seasoned travel documentary producer, had previously secured a seat on a Virgin Galactic space plane, demonstrating India's growing interest in space tourism. However, Thotakura's upcoming mission underscores the evolving landscape of space travel, potentially outpacing Kulangara's aspirations.

Neither Kulangara nor Thotakura can claim the title of the first Indian in space, as that honor belongs to Rakesh Sharma. Sharma achieved this feat in 1984 aboard the Soviet Soyuz T-11 rocket, spending over seven days aboard the Salyut-7 space station.

Meet Gopi Thotakura: Aiming to be India's First Civilian Space Tourist

Gopichand Thotakura, hailed by Blue Space as the "pilot and aviator who learned how to fly before he could drive," co-founded Preserve Life Corp in Georgia, focusing on holistic wellness. Beyond commercial jet flying, he navigates bush planes, aerobatics, seaplanes, gliders, and hot air balloons, and has flown as an international medical jet pilot. His recent expedition led him to conquer Mt. Kilimanjaro, as stated in a press release from Bezos-led space company.

Thotakura's educational journey began at Sarala Birla Academy in Bengaluru, followed by a Bachelor's degree in Aeronautical Sciences from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. NDTV reports his birthplace as Vijayawada.

Embarking on Gopi Thotakura's Mission

Blue Origin's NS-25 mission marks a significant milestone as the first crewed flight for the fully-reusable New Shepard rocket since NS-22 in 2022. Following a fleet grounding due to an engine failure and subsequent crash during an uncrewed mission in September 2022, flights resumed in December 2023. The upcoming mission will carry six astronauts, including Thotakura, Ed Dwight, Mason Angel, Sylvain Chiron, Kenneth L. Hess, and Carol Schaller.

This will be Blue Origin's seventh crewed suborbital space flight, where the spacecraft will reach outer space but won't orbit the Earth before reentering the atmosphere. As of now, Blue Origin has not confirmed the date of the mission, but anticipation is high for this next step in commercial space travel.

What is New Shepard?

Named in honor of Alan Shepard, the first American in space, the New Shepard launch system boasts a reusable suborbital rocket powered by the innovative Blue Engine 3 (BE3). Capable of throttling down to a mere eight kilometers per hour, the BE3 facilitates the controlled landing of the rocket's reusable section. Within the pressurized crew capsule, six astronauts will enjoy individual window seats, as the vehicle operates autonomously without the need for a pilot. This autonomous feature underscores the advanced technology and reliability of the New Shepard system, ensuring a safe and efficient journey for its occupants.