‘We’ve got aliens living on this planet’ – India’s first cosmonaut
Traveling to space aboard a Soviet rocket made Indian cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma realize the importance of caring for our own planet, he told RT in a new interview. While Sharma said that he looks forward to making contact with extraterrestrial life, he added that a certain kind of “alien” already lives on Earth.
Sharma was a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force when he was selected in 1982 to train with the USSR’s Interkosmos space program. Two years later he became the first Indian citizen in space when he blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Soyuz rocket bound for the Salyut 7 space station.
Being in space “gives you a wider perspective of your own existence,” Sharma told RT in an interview broadcast on Tuesday. “You return…a lot more mindful about the fact that there is no other place which is as comfortable as planet Earth, and therefore we really need to look after it and take care of [its] resources and use them frugally.”
Sharma is not the only space traveler to return with a newfound perspective on Earth’s fragility. American astronaut Edgar MItchell famously remarked that gazing down at our planet made him
“want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a b***h!”
Like several other Western astronauts, Mitchell returned to Earth a believer in alien life. Sharma, however, sees things differently.
“I think we are aliens living on this planet,” he said. “There are people who are really greedy, who don’t bother about the environment, people who don’t share.” The idea of neglecting mankind’s “common destiny” and sowing “conflict for profit,” he explained, should be viewed as “alien.”
Sharma also believes that there is life in outer space. “I think it's typically arrogant of us humans to think we are the only intelligent life in this vast universe,” he said. “It’s just that our sense of distance is limited…and science hasn’t yet opened all the doors. There has to be alien life more evolved than us, and I look forward to that kind of contact.”
Much has changed since Sharma traveled to Salyut 7. India is currently preparing to launch a domestically-developed spacecraft into low Earth orbit, and aims to follow this milestone with the country’s first crewed launch as early as next year. Meanwhile, the private space industry is booming, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has declared that he will establish a colony on Mars by 2050.
“Technologically we will be capable of doing this,” Sharma said. However, the cosmonaut questioned whether “we will be able to derive anything from it on a happiness scale.”
“There’s no point in building a far-off hell when you have paradise right here,” he added. “Let’s practice sustainability on Earth before we move out.”