Wing Commander Nikhil Rath of Balangir has cleared the preliminary round of selection of astronauts to undertake training for Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s first manned mission to space in 2021.
All the 25 shortlisted pilots, including Nikhil, will undergo training in Russia for one year for the space mission under the ambitious Gaganyaan mission. If the Indian Air Force pilot from Odisha is selected in the final list, he will be among three astronauts to go to space for a seven-day mission.
Nikhil is the son of Ashok Rath, a Balangir-based senior lawyer and Kusum Rath, a member of Women Commission. After completing his schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Balangir in 1998, Nikhil did his Intermediate from Delhi Public School in 2000.
In the first attempt, he cleared the entrance examination and joined National Defence Academy (NDA) as a cadet. He joined the Indian Air Force in 2003.
“Going to space is definitely a risky job. But our family has been serving the nation. My father was a freedom fighter and my elder brother, who was a commandant in CRPF, was martyred in Mizoram. I too had a desire to join defence service but unfortunately, it did not happen. Now my son is serving the country,” said Ashok.
Under Gaganyaan Mission, a spacecraft of ISRO carrying three astronauts from the Armed forces will take off in 2021. The Rs 10,000 crore project was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Independence Day last year.