Who is Gopi Thotakura, the first Indian ‘space tourist’ to fly with Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin? | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Who is Gopi Thotakura, the first Indian ‘space tourist’ to fly with Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin?

By | Edited by Vaibhav Tiwari
Apr 12, 2024 01:56 PM IST

The aerospace company Blue Origin unveiled the crew members' names for the New Shepard-25 mission on April 4.

Gopichand Thotakura, an entrepreneur and pilot, has been selected as one of the six crew members for Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin New Shepard -25 (NS-25) mission. This makes him the “first Indian space tourist” and the second Indian to venture into space after the Indian Army's Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma in 1984.

Gopichand Thotakura, an entrepreneur and pilot.
Gopichand Thotakura, an entrepreneur and pilot.

The aerospace company unveiled the crew members' names for the New Shepard-25 mission on April 4. Thotakura is poised to join the esteemed group of 31 people who have surpassed the Karman line, the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space, via the New Shepard program.

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This mission marks the seventh human flight for the New Shepard program and the 25th in its history.

Blue Origin has stated that the NS-25 flight date will be announced soon.

Who is Gopichand Thotakura?

- According to Blue Origin, Gopichand Thotakura, a pilot and aviator, acquired his flying skills before obtaining a driver's license. He reportedly hails from Andhra Pradesh's Vijayawada, and his Facebook profile says he currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, in the US.

- Thotakura holds a degree in Aviation Management and Operations from Coventry University, UAE, and a Bachelor's in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Also Read | Jeff Bezos’s space company Blue Origin names former Amazon executive as CEO

- He co-founded Preserve Life Corp, a global centre for holistic wellness and applied health near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. As Preserve Life Corp states, over the past seven years, he has effectively managed significant projects in aviation, infrastructure, and holistic wellness.

- In addition to his commercial jet piloting, Thotakura is experienced in piloting bush, aerobatic, and seaplanes, as well as gliders and hot air balloons. He has also served as an international medical jet pilot. As highlighted in Blue Origin's press release, his adventurous spirit led him to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in his most recent expedition.

Watch | Blue Origin successfully launches first Egyptian, Portuguese to Space

Who are the others joining on NS-25?

In addition to Thotakura, the crew for this manned flight will consist of five individuals embarking on their inaugural space voyages. They are:

- Ed Dwight, who made history in 1961 as the first Black astronaut candidate selected by President John F. Kennedy for training at the Aerospace Research Pilot School (ARPS). Despite this milestone, Dwight never made a journey to space.

- Mason Angel, the creator of Industrious Ventures, a venture capital firm.

- Sylvain Chiron, the founder of Brasserie Mont Blanc, a prominent craft brewery based in France.

- Kenneth L. Hess, a software engineer and entrepreneur.

- Carol Schaller, a retired Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

Blue Origin's space tourism

Blue Origin's efforts encompass various initiatives, such as transporting astronauts aboard New Shepard to space, creating reusable liquid rocket engines, constructing an orbital launch vehicle named New Glenn, advancing the development of next-generation space habitats, and planning lunar surface missions.

New Shepard

Named in honour of Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, “New Shepard” is a reusable suborbital rocket system crafted to transport astronauts and research payloads beyond the Kármán line.

"Whether you are an astronaut travelling alongside Blue Origin or dispatching a payload into space, your brief 11-minute journey aboard New Shepard promises to be an unforgettable adventure,” Blue Origin's official website says.

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