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Gopi Thotakura to Become First Indian Space Tourist


Entrepreneur and pilot Gopi Thotakura is poised to make history as the first Indian to venture into space as a tourist on Blue Origin’s NS-25 Mission, founded by Jeff Bezos. Thotakura has been selected as one of the six crew members for the mission, the launch date of which is yet to be announced. If the mission is successful, Thotakura will follow in the footsteps of Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, who became the first Indian to travel to space aboard a Soviet spacecraft to the Salyut 7 space station in 1984. This significant achievement highlights India’s growing presence and participation in the global space exploration sector.


GS III: Space

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Space Tourism
  2. Karman Line

Space Tourism


  • A sector of the aviation industry offering tourists the chance to experience space travel for leisure, recreation, or business.

Market Growth:

  • Valued at $848.28 million in 2023.
  • Expected to reach $27,861.99 million by 2032.
Types of Space Tourism:
  • Sub-orbital spaceflight:
    • Takes passengers just beyond the Kármán line (100 km above sea level).
    • Offers a few minutes in outer space before returning to Earth.
    • Example: Blue Origin’s New Shepherd mission.
  • Orbital spaceflight:
    • Takes passengers to an altitude of nearly 1.3 million feet.
    • Passengers can spend from a few days to over a week in space.
    • Example: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 mission in September 2021 took four passengers to an altitude of 160 km for three days in orbit.
  • Cost:
    • Typically, a passenger must pay at least a million dollars for the trip.
  • Environmental Concerns:
    • Rockets emit gaseous and solid chemicals into the upper atmosphere.
    • A 2022 study by UCL, University of Cambridge, and MIT found rocket soot emissions significantly warm the atmosphere.
  • Safety:
    • As of 2023, 676 people have flown into space with 19 fatalities, resulting in an approximate 3% fatality rate.

Karman Line


  • An imaginary boundary that marks the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space, situated at 100 km (62 miles) above sea level.


  • Named after aerospace pioneer Theodore von Kármán.
  • Established by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) in the 1960s.


  • An aircraft or spacecraft crossing the Karman line is classified as a spaceflight.
  • Individuals crossing this line are officially recognized as astronauts.
  • Aerodynamics vs Orbital Mechanics:
    • Below the Kármán line, flight is dominated by aerodynamic principles.
    • Above the line, orbital mechanics become more crucial.
  • Atmospheric Conditions:
    • At the Karman line, the atmosphere is extremely thin.
    • Traditional aircraft relying on wings for lift struggle to function effectively due to the thin atmosphere.
    • Spacecraft above the Karman line require their own propulsion systems to maintain trajectory and counteract the minimal atmospheric drag.

-Source: Indian Express

May 2024