New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has shortlisted the 10 potential astronauts for the country’s maiden manned space mission ‘Gaganyaan’.
Off the 10, at least two are likely to be chosen for the mission that is expected to be launched by 2022. Top IAF sources told ThePrint that “experimental test pilots” below the age of 39 were eligible for selection.
The IAF said that it has completed Level-1 of Indian Astronaut selection at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine. The selected test pilots have undergone extensive physical exercise tests, lab investigations, radiological tests, clinical tests and evaluation on various facets of their psychology.
#MissionGaganyaan -IAF completed Level-1 of Indian Astronaut selection at Institute of Aerospace Medicine. Selected Test Pilots underwent extensive physical exercise tests, lab investigations, radiological tests, clinical tests & evaluation on various facets of their psychology. pic.twitter.com/O3QYWJYlQd
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) September 6, 2019
As announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15 August 2018, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) 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.
ISRO had tied up with IAF for crew selection early this year.
Three-stage process of selection
While the plan initially was to pick up candidates from both flight engineers and test pilots, a decision was taken to restrict it to the test pilots only.
Sources also told ThePrint that candidates include both those who had volunteered and others who were chosen to be part of the selection rounds. They further said that one of the main criteria for selection will be “psychological prowess” of candidates.
They added that selection will be a three-stage process. The selected astronauts will be given initial training in India and advanced training abroad, which could be Russia.
IAF teams up with ISRO
The IAF and ISRO had signed an MoU on 29 May for crew selection and training. The agreement was signed by then Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Space Operations), Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. 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 that was opened on 31 January. The centre has been tasked with developing technology for manned space missions.
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 the IAF handling crew selection and training while the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) building life support system for the team.
The Navy too will play an important role in recovering the human capsule once it re-enters the atmosphere and falls into the sea.