Rakesh Sharma was born on 13 January 1949 at Patiala, Punjab, India. He attended St. Georges Grammar School, Hyderabad. He graduated from Nizam College. He joined the Indian Air Force as a cadet in 1966.
In 1984, he became the first citizen of India to go into space when he flew aboard the Soviet rocket Soyuz T-11 blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic on the second of April 1984.