After Branson, Bezos, India’s very first space tourist Santhosh George Kulangara prepares to head into the void


Santhosh George Kulangara (photo in the center). | Photo credit: Twitter

Highlights

  • Via his exploration channel, Safari TV, based in his hometown, Santhosh has broadcast more than 1,800 episodes of travel documentaries, collecting footage as he traversed 130 countries.
  • Santhosh’s entanglement with space tourism has its origins in 2005 when, during a visit to England, he spied on a low-key newspaper ad inviting to apply for space travel.
  • In truth, its space trip could have happened much sooner, but the space program itself has found itself riddled with setbacks like failed launches, and more recently a pandemic to contend with.

When Richard Branson flew into space earlier this month aboard a Virgin Atlantic rocket, the importance of the occasion would not have been lost on him. His trip to space was the clearest indication yet that the space tourism industry was ready to come to life. Upon returning from the trip, a beaming Branson exclaimed, “The whole thing was just magic.”

Just days after the adventure of Branson, the founder of Blue Origin and one of the richest men in the world, Jeff Bezos strapped into his own spaceship to go beyond the Karman Line.

The success of the Branson and Bezos missions should give real hope to space enthusiasts who dream of seeing the blue dot on the endless black canvas of space. But at this point, only one Indian – Santhosh George Kulangara – can definitely say that he will make this dream come true.

Malayali, 49, is, for all intents and purposes, a household name in Kerala. Via his exploration channel, Safari TV, based in his hometown, Santhosh has broadcast more than 1,800 episodes of travel documentaries, collecting footage as he toured 130 countries.

Adored by grateful Malayalis for taking on the role of bringing the sights and sounds of the world into the average Keralite family, Santhosh is an obsessive documentary maker, admitting himself that he is never found without his camera to his sides.

Perhaps then he is the ideal candidate to become India’s first space tourist. Santhosh’s entanglement with space tourism has its origins in 2005 when, during a visit to England, he spied on a low-key newspaper ad inviting to apply for space travel.

The ad was about giving the average person a chance to go where no other tourist has gone via a mission planned by Branson. Without thinking too much about it, Santhosh decided to throw his hat in the ring. Several rounds of interviews and contract signing followed, but in 2007 he was accepted into Virgin Galactic’s space tourism program.

In truth, its trip to space could have happened much earlier, but the space program itself has found itself riddled with setbacks like failed launches, and more recently a pandemic to contend with. But with Branson’s launch proving to be a huge success, Santhosh’s turn can’t be too far away now. It’s unclear whether he’ll board one of Virgin Galactic’s spaceships this year or next, but what is certain is his determination to document every aspect of the journey for what will actually be. a 130 crore audience at home.

Speaking to The Times of India earlier this month, Santhosh said, “For me, even the moments leading up to this experience are pretty exciting – whether it’s making the little preparations, meeting personalities like Richard Branson, to think about how this could change my life. …all. And while we are not allowed to go out and experience things like spacewalks, we can also do the same inside the ship. I am that as always, I will also be able to capture at least 90 percent of the experience on my camera, to bring it back to my audience.

Santhosh admitted that it had been difficult to maintain the initial levels of excitement he felt after his selection over a decade ago. But after going through rigorous training to withstand the G-forces and acclimatize to weightlessness, he hopes the Rs 2.5 lakh he distributed on a seat aboard the spacecraft will pay off as soon as possible. .


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