Dr. T. N. Suresh Kumar (Hon)
Senior Space Scientist (Retired), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
Mahayatri (Visitor more that 150 Countries and all the Seven Continents)
First Indian to travel the Stratosphere and Zero Gravity
First Indian to explore Sahara Desert and reach summit of Nyiragongo Active Volcano (Congo)
T N Suresh Kumar is a Space Scientist, Educator, Explorer, Adventurer, a Theme traveler visitor of more than 153 countries covering all the 7 continents of the world.
He started his career in Indian space research organization (ISRO) at Ahmedabad in 1978. He has worked as R & D engineer at space applications center for Bhaskara – an earth observation satellite. He contributed for the development of India’s first communications satellite APPLE – Arian passenger payload experiment. Later he was relocated to INSAT satellite program at Hassan, Karnataka. He participated in setting up earth station with 14m fully steerable indigenously developed antennas for tracking geostationary satellites. He was trained in Spacecraft Control Operations by Ford Aerospace Communications Corporation, USA. He was Flight Director for INSAT- 1 and 2 series of satellites during launch and station-keeping maneuvers. As Operations manager, he carried out multi-satellite operations of GSATs, INSATs and IRNSS series of satellites. He has contributed for setting up American station in Master Control Facility, MCF, Hassan for Ge -American satellite. He was deputed by ISRO to Teleglobe station, Canada for Mission Operations of INSAT– Satellite. He was Launch and mission operations team member for more than 30 Satellite launches like INSATs, GSATs, and IRNSS series of satellites. He worked as flyby coordinator during launch and early mission operations with International satellite agencies like Intelsat, Inmarsat, Japansat, SES- Americom, Lockheed martin etc..
He was one of the short listed astronauts to go to space by NASA as an Indian Payload Specialist in 1985. Unfortunately, the program was abandoned due to the explosion of space shuttle in 1986. However, on 15th August 2014 he became the First Indian & 259th person in the world to go to “The Edge of Space – the stratosphere” as a tourist from Russia. On 02 April, 2015, he experienced Second Space mission Zero-Gravity flight from Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, Russia. He participated in Antarctic Expedition to witness the Aurora australis, the Polar lights at Esperanza research station. He tested Coriolis Effect of earth on the Equator passing through Kenya, Uganda & Ecuador. He visited many of the active volcanoes of the world like Mount Yasur volcano on Tanna Island, South pacific islands of Vanuatu, Mount Nyiragongo – an active volcano in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Masaya Volcano, in Nicaragua etc. He carried out tests at Anti -gravity / Magnetic hill spots, visited many rocket launching and scientific stations like European space agency (ESA), ariane-6 rocket launching station, French Guiana, Soyuz launching pad of Roscosmos vehicle control center, sokol airbase, Novgorod, Russia, Jupiter control station, kourou, Time Study Observer at Royal Museums Greenwich, London, Belgacom space port, Belgium, Yuri Gagarin cosmonaut training center, Russia, solar observatory, Siberia, ISTRAC network of ground stations at Mauritius etc..
He was also honored by Greenland TV media on his 100th country visit at Greenland where he had gone to witness Solar flares effects, Northern lights phenomenon. Suresh Kumar is an avid traveler. As mentioned in one of the media, he has left his foot prints on more than 153 countries covering all the 7 continents of the world.
- Only scientist who has travelled length & breadth of the globe – From bottom of the ocean (Submarine) to Edge of Space.
- First Indian to Travel the stratosphere – “The Edge of Space” from Russia as a tourist
- First Indian to experience “Zero-gravity” flight from Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, Russia as a tourist.
- First Indian to explore Sahara desert Ennedi Plateau rock formations
- First Indian to reach summit of Nyiragongo Active volcano (Congo)
- First Indian to explore Easter island, a mysterious island in center of pacific ocean
In recognition of his achievement, Suresh Kumar has been honored and awarded by many educational institutions and organizations. He was cited in hundreds of print and television media, both in India and abroad. He has been awarded with honorary doctorate for his life time achievements. His hobbies include Photography, Videography, Documentary and educating the students about Space and Earth science. Every day he answers questions on space science, earth science, world travel and general questions benefitting lakhs of viewers (an average of 1000 views per day) in www.quora.com.
Q1. Please share your inspirational journey with us?
I was one of the short listed astronauts to go to space by NASA as an Indian Payload Specialist in 1985. Unfortunately, the program was abandoned due to the explosion of space shuttle in 1986. This was a great disappointment in my life, but I took this as a challenge & decided to touch each & every part of the globe if not space. What was a breakdown in my life in 1984, became a breakthrough in 2014 on 15th August that is India’s Independence Day when I became the First Indian & 259th person in the world to go to “The Edge of Space – the stratosphere” as a tourist from Russia.
Q2. What kind of hurdles did you face in your journey?
I hail from a middle class family. So, dreaming high and converting it to reality was something like building castles in air. Still, I did not lose hope. My wife co-operated with me and we started saving money and leave, without seeking help from any source to achieve this. I meticulously planned my travels without affecting my official responsibilities. If at all I am considered a successful person, it is because of my wife, the woman behind me who stood like a backbone in all my endeavors.
Q3. You are the first Indian who travelled Edge of Space (Stratosphere). How was your space experience, please share something with us?
My experience to the edge of Space was incredible. The stratosphere is a second layer of the atmosphere stratified (layered) in temperature, with warmer layers higher and cooler layers closer to the Earth; this increase of temperature with altitude is a result of the absorption of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation by the ozone layer. I got an opportunity to see the earth’s partial curvature from space and also could admire the beauty of earth from a distance of nearly 17100 m above the earth’s surface and traveling at speed of 1850kms/hr with a MACH number of 1.7 with a g-load of 7-8 was breathtaking. I was trained by Russians to perform rolls, back loops, over wing, inverted flights, tail slide and low pass maneuvers which was mind blowing. More than all these things, it was fulfilling my dream of 30 years taking our Indian flag and my mother’s photo on the independence day of India to “Edge of space” on some other country’s soil. Many thanks to Russia for their magnanimity.
I am ever grateful to God for giving me the strength to do all these things with my own individual effort.
Q4. How do you handle stress in this fast and competitive life?
Stress is a part and parcel of anybody’s life. One needs to have a lot of patience to deal with stress and am glad God has bestowed me with this quality. So, when stress is dealt with a right perspective, one gets amazing results in life. Eg: for an Indian, travelling to any country involves lot of Visa formalities, convincing the consular about your intentions to travel is quite stressful. I take life in the right stride. Strong will power, meticulous planning and lot of perseverance help me get over the stress.
Q5. You have traveled more than 150 Countries and 7 Continents. What makes you to become an avid traveler?
Travelling or reading might be hobby to many people, but I am basically a theme traveler, adventurer and explorer with a purpose. I started as a traveller, but later, curiosity, scientific temperament and quest to know more and more about the world, its mysteries and Geographical aspects our earth treasures like Hot Geysers, Volcanoes, Aurora Borealis, Coriolis effect on equator, Greenwich timeline, sun effects at Arctic and Antarctic regions, jungles, mountains, deserts, under water treasures of oceans, food and cultures of the world etc. made my travel more interesting and inspiring. Later it gives immense happiness to share the same with students and interested community. So, this made me an avid traveler.
Q6. Which one thing do you want to change in yourself and why?
Sometimes, being a solo traveler, I take too much of risk travelling to dangerous places like Death road of Bolivia or Sahara desert expedition or close encounters with volcanoes etc. which I would like to bring it to moderate considering my age as advised by many of my well-wishers.
Q7. You are the first ISRO Scientist who experienced Zero Gravity in Russia. What was your experience in Zero Gravity?
Zero gravity experience was quite opposite to that of “Edge of space” flight because in ‘edge of space’ body undergoes g-force which makes one’s body too heavy and blood rushing down, whereas in ‘zero gravity’ we start floating and is a group event in a flying Aerolab. People on Earth are always under gravity. So, I just wanted to experience zero gravity. Russia offered such space adventures. And I did not want to miss it. Luckily, I am blessed with good health and my body supports me in all my endeavors. I do not have any problems like nausea, giddiness, ear ache etc. So, it was amazing floating in the air and I got an opportunity to perform some yoga posture like Padmasana. I was the only Indian among all foreigners. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a life time experience taking our Indian flag in the zero gravity flight. After performing the Edge of space and zero gravity flights, it built so much confidence in me that at the age of 60, I undertook sky diving on the islands of Fiji.
Q8. Tell us about one of the moments which changed your perspective towards life?
Failure / disappointment of not going to Space in 1984 (as mentioned above) set a new goal in my life to see the entire world if not space. So, this became the turning point in my life and it changed my life’s perspective and today I am able to set my foot on most part of the globe and also God was kind enough to fulfill my dream of going to edge of Space and Zero gravity.
Q9. You have traveled almost the whole world. Which one location do you like most? Please share some tips during traveling for safety?
True, I have almost touched every part of the world. But I personally feel, the country I like the most is India due to following reasons, not because I am an Indian. India is one which has everything in it like the mountains, the oceans, the deserts, national parks, snow, jungles, ancient temples etc. Every 200 kms, we get to see different culture, different style of clothing, food, language etc. like festival of lights, festival of colors, so on. General thumb rules of safety are – have proper documents, less valuables on your body, avoid traveling after dark, never accept any materials from anybody, be humble, respect that country’s rules and culture, abide by the country’s constitution, keep your money and credit cards safely, avoid getting into any altercations etc. For more details visit my website www.mahayatri.com.
Get more about Dr. T. N. Suresh Kumar @
Video biography: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAgCMH2Q6TM&t=327s
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/sureshkumar-mahayatri/videos
Qoura.com : https://www.quora.com/profile/T-N-Suresh-Kumar-1