Saturday, April 6, 2019

ISRO to Pick Gaganyaan Crew from 100 Astronaut Candidates

In the first baby step of the giant leap of Indians voyage into space, prospective crew members who will be picked for 'Gaganyaan', the country's first human space flight program, will commence training later this month as soon as Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the IAF sign an agreement.

"It (agreement) could happen next week, and then the course of selection and training will begin. In about a year-and-a-half or two years, six crew members will be selected from about 100 astronaut candidates. Those six members, of whom three will make it to the first flight while the remaining three will be on standby, will be the toppers in a three-phase selection and training program," Dr K. Sivan, Chairman, ISRO, told Deccan Chronicle.

"Of course, we want a woman to be part of the first crew," he added, "but it depends on the procedures of selection and training."

He said those who make the final cut would join the space agency as a member of staff in order to get familiar with the first mission to space, the experiments to be carried out during the seven-day outing in space, and get hands-on experience of technologies involved in 'Gaganyaan'. The training schedule - in two phases - would be worked out by the IAF's Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) in Bengaluru while the last phase would be conducted in collaboration with Russian or French space agencies. "Three of our people (ISRO) have visited aerospace medicine facilities in France but we have not signed any agreement with CNES (the French space agency) as other countries like Russia have also offered to help us during the last phase of training," he added. 

Expressing confidence that ISRO would be able to accomplish the mission in December 2021, six months ahead of the date announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Dr Sivan said a number of reviews, including one at the national level by renowned experts, the IAF, academia, and DRDO labs, have been completed on the crew module and the launch vehicle. Besides, six space-based experiments have been picked - four related to biology and two to engineering - for the first unmanned flight of the crew module scheduled for December 2020. The space agency would be ready for the second unmanned flight of the crew module in July 2021, he added. 

On Jan 30, ISRO opened the Human Space Flight Centre at its headquarters in Bengaluru. It has been tasked with implementation of the 'Gaganyaan' project, which involves planning of the mission, and development of engineering systems for survival of the crew in space. It would also support activities for sustained human space flight missions.

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