• Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

A SIGNIFICANT MILESTONE FOR INDIAN AIR FORCE — FOUR IAF PILOTS SHORTLISTED TO TRAVEL ON THE COUNTRY’S MAIDEN SPACE FLIGHT MISSION “GAGANYAAN”

The Gaganyaan, literally meaning ‘celestial vehicle’ will carry four astronauts to an orbit of 400 km on a 3-day mission and bring them back safely to Earth, by landing in Indian sea waters.

India’s space agency Isro has been carrying out a number of tests to prepare for the flight.

In October, a key test demonstrated that the crew could safely escape the rocket in case it malfunctioned.

After its success, Isro said a test flight would take a robot into space in 2024, before astronauts are sent into space in 2025.

At a function at the Isro centre in the southern city of Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, the four astronaut-designates were described as “dreamers, adventurers and valiant men preparing to go into space”.

The officers, chosen from the prestigious Indian Air Force, were introduced as Group Captain Prashanth Balakrishnan Nair, Group Captain Ajit Krishnan, Group Captain Angad Pratap and Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Isro chief S Somanath pinned badges with golden wings onto their shirts and Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi described them as “India’s pride”.

These are not just four names or four people. They are four powers who will carry the aspirations of 1.4 billion Indians to space. I congratulate and wish them all the best,” he said.

Officials said the men were selected from a pool of Air Force pilots and had undergone extensive physical and psychological tests before being shortlisted.

They have undergone rigorous training for 13 months in Russia and are now carrying on with their gruelling schedule back home.

On Tuesday, Isro also showed a glimpse of Vyommitra – Sanskrit word for “space friend” – the female humanoid that will be sent into space later this year.

The Gaganyaan Mission is India’s first human space flight programme for which extensive preparations are underway at various Isro centres.

 

Named after the Sanskrit word for craft or vehicle to the sky, the Gaganyaan project has been developed at the cost of 90bn rupees ($1bn; £897m).

If it succeeds, India will become only the fourth country to send a human into space after the Soviet Union, the US and China.

An Indian astronaut also went to space as early as in 1984 when Rakesh Sharma spent nearly eight days on a Russian spacecraft.

Last year India made history by becoming the first to land near the Moon’s south pole in August 2023.

Just weeks later, scientists launched Aditya-L1, India’s first observation mission to the Sun which is now in orbit, keeping an eye on our solar system’s most important and volatile star.

India has also announced ambitious new plans for space, saying it would aim to set up a space station by 2035 and send an astronaut to the Moon by 2040.

Gaganyaan has generated a lot of interest in India.

The project is accomplished through an optimal strategy by considering inhouse expertise, experience of Indian industry, intellectual capabilities of Indian academia & research institutions along with cutting edge technologies available with international agencies. The pre-requisites for Gaganyaan mission include development of many critical technologies including human rated launch vehicle for carrying crew safely to space, Life Support System to provide an earth like environment to crew in space, crew emergency escape provision and evolving crew management aspects for training, recovery and rehabilitation of crew.

Various precursor missions are planned for demonstrating the Technology Preparedness Levels before carrying out the actual Human Space Flight mission. These demonstrator missions include Integrated Air Drop Test (IADT), Pad Abort Test (PAT) and Test Vehicle (TV) flights. Safety and reliability of all systems will be proven in unmanned missions preceding manned mission.

(With inputs from ISRO and International News agency)

Report: Pratyusha mukherjee

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