New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has begun the process of shortlisting 10 potential astronauts for the country’s maiden manned space mission ‘Gaganyaan’. Of the 10, three, including a woman, will make the cut for the mission expected to be launched by 2022.
Top sources in the defence establishment told ThePrint that the Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) will commence the medical process for the potential candidates.
They added that the candidates include test pilots and flight engineers.
“The potential astronauts, including those who have volunteered, will undergo tough medical tests that will be more stringent than that for fighter pilots,” a source said, adding that much of the focus will be on “psychological prowess”.
Sources also said that the selection will be a three-stage process.
They, however, refused to elaborate on the selection process and the the number of people who have been shortlisted for now.
As per the plan, the selected astronauts will be given initial training in India and will then be given advanced training abroad. India is currently in talks with the US, Russia and France for the second phase of training.
IAF teams up with ISRO
The IAF and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) signed an MoU on 29 May for crew selection and training for the project. The agreement was signed by then assistant chief of Air Staff (Space Operations), Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor, and the Gaganyaan Project director R. Hutton in the presence of ISRO chairman K. Sivan.
The crew selection and training will be conducted at ISRO’s Human Space Flight Centre, opened on 31 January, adjacent to its headquarters in Bengaluru. The centre has been tasked with developing technology for manned space missions.
ISRO had on 8 June held its first meeting of the national advisory council (NAC), where representatives of all organisations and institutions involved in the Gaganyaan project participated. The space agency has already tested the engine meant for the GSLV MK-III, which will be carrying Indian astronauts to space.
The defence establishment is playing a key role in the Rs 9,023 crore mission with IAF handling crew selection and training while the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is building the life support system for the crew.
The Navy too will play a key role as it will help in recovering the human capsule once it re-enters the atmosphere and falls into the sea.
As announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15 August, 2018, the space agency will send three astronauts in a capsule into space around the earth’s orbit for a week by December 2021 or 2022, which marks the country’s 75th year of Independence.