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Gopi Thotakura becomes first Indian space tourist in NS-25 mission

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In a historic milestone for space tourism, Gopi Thotakura, an entrepreneur and pilot, has become the first Indian space tourist. Thotakura was selected as one of six crew members for Blue Origin’s NS-25 mission, making him the second Indian to venture into space after the Indian Air Force’s Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma in 1984.

Blue Origin, backed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, resumed its crewed flights to the edge of space after a nearly two-year hiatus following a mission failure in 2022. The NS-25 mission lifted off from Launch Site One in West Texas on May 19, 2024, marking the company’s seventh human flight and the 25th mission in its history.

To date, the New Shepard program has flown 31 humans above the Karman line, the proposed boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

 

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New Shepard, a fully reusable sub-orbital launch vehicle developed for space tourism, carried Thotakura and five other crew members on this groundbreaking journey. Thotakura, originally from Andhra Pradesh, is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and co-founder of Preserve Life Corp, a global center for holistic wellness and applied health near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

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An accomplished aviator, Thotakura flies jets commercially and pilots bush, aerobatic, and seaplanes, as well as gliders and hot air balloons. He has also served as an international medical jet pilot.

The other crew members on the NS-25 flight included Mason Angel, Sylvain Chiron, Kenneth L. Hess, Carol Schaller, and former Air Force Captain Ed Dwight. Dwight, selected by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 as the nation’s first Black astronaut candidate, was never given the opportunity to fly to space until now.

 

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Each astronaut on the NS-25 mission carried a postcard to space on behalf of Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future. This initiative gives students access to space on Blue Origin’s rockets, allowing them to create and send postcards digitally.

The Club’s mission is to inspire future generations to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) for the benefit of Earth.

Environmentally, nearly 99 percent of New Shepard’s dry mass is reused, including the booster, capsule, engine, landing gear, and parachutes. The engine is fueled by highly efficient liquid oxygen and hydrogen, with water vapor as the only byproduct, resulting in no carbon emissions.

Blue Origin also released the NS-25 mission patch, featuring symbols like the Gemini spacecraft, representing Ed Dwight’s aerospace training era.

Gopi Thotakura’s journey into space marks a significant achievement in the realm of space tourism and serves as an inspiration for future generations of Indian space enthusiasts.

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