Chandrayaan to take India to next frontier: Rakesh Sharma

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New Delhi, Feb 8 (UNI) India's first man in space Rakesh Sharma feels country's first unmanned lunar mission 'Chandrayaan' would put India's space programme into a completely different league.

''Only when we are able to bring humans safely back from the Moon, we can see ourselves standing on the other side of the fence,'' Wg Cdr (retd) Rakesh Sharma said while delivering a master class in cosmonautics here along with his counterpart, Anatoly Berezovoy, from the erstwhile Soviet Union.

Indian scientist Vikram Sarabhai's vision has been realised as the Indians are taking huge strides in space exploration and are ready to colonise the moon with the mission Chandrayaan, the Indian cosmonaut said.

The indigenously developed Indian Space programmes were being recognised the world over for their cost-effectiveness and success, he said, adding ''Our space exploration has succeeded in touching the lives of the common man with its application-based process.'' He, however, denied being part of the lunar mission project, saying his involvement was restricted to that of any other Indian citizen.

Talking to young aspirants who wish to conquer the vastness of the space, Mr Sharma said, ''Even I never dreamt of going to space in my childhood but I was in good sense to say yes when the opportunity knocked my door.'' But it was very important in today's world to dream and nurture your aim, Mr Berezovoy said, adding, ''I was 19 when Yuri Gagarin stepped on the Moon. I read his biography and decided to go to the space. There was, however, a distance of 21 years for my desire to turn into a reality.

''There were times, when I thought my desire would never come true. There was rigorous training and mounting obstacles between my vision and reality. But in the end, I was able to achieve my goal.'' Both the cosmonauts were part of the historic mission in 1984 as part of a joint space programme between the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Soviet Intercosmos space programme and spent eight days in space aboard the Salyut 7 space station.

Mr Berezovoy, who is on his second visit to India, remembered meeting former prime minister Indira Gandhi during his first visit.

''Mrs Gandhi took care of us like a mother and I was touched by her gesture,'' he said.

On the current space programme between the two countries, the Russia cosmonaut said, ''The relation is not from today but traces back to more than 50 years. It is very important to unite our efforts in the Space projects so that we are able to take joint steps to the Moon and even to the Mars.'' Asked whether the cosmonauts met any aliens on their way to Space and back 24 years ago, Mr Sharma replied, ''Though I believe in the existence of extra terrestial intelligence, we were not able to meet any. But I surely have met stranger people on Earth.'' UNI SYU PK GC1515

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