Astronaut-elects for ISRO's Gaganyaan mission 'doing well' in training in Russia; may return in early 2021

So far, the astronaut-elects have completed training on emergency descent and landing in different terrain and seasons.


Four Indian astronaut candidates in India’s first manned space mission Gaganyaan are in good health and "determined to continue with their training" and doing well, the Russian space agency Roscosmos said in a statement Thursday. The training, being undertaken by experts at the Russian space agency at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC), began in February 2020.

The training was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but resumed in May. The astronauts-in-training are following general space training courses as well as specialized training on operating the Soyuz MS crewed spacecraft. The training is scheduled to end by the first quarter of 2021, the statement said.

So far, the astronaut candidates have completed training on "crew actions in the event of an abnormal descent module landing" on different surfaces, including in "wooded and marshy areas in winter" and water. As of July, they were also trained in how to manage an emergency landing in a flat plain during summer, the agency said.

The ISRO space suit for astronauts in the Gaganyaan mission, displayed at the Bengaluru Space Expo. Image: Twitter/Nagarjun Dwarkanath

The ISRO space suit for astronauts in the Gaganyaan mission, displayed at the Bengaluru Space Expo. Image: Twitter/Nagarjun Dwarkanath

Some other courses in their regular training include physical and medical training; the configuration, structure, and systems of Soyuz spacecrafts; and speaking Russian – an important language astronauts use to communicate. The astronaut candidates will also be trained in simulations in a centrifuge and in a hyperbaric chamber (pressurized room) to prepare them for conditions like G-force, hypoxia and pressure drops during spaceflight. These training modules will begin in the near future, the statement said.

"After [a year] of training in Russia, the astronauts will receive module-specific training in India," Minister of State for Atomic Energy and Space Jitendra Singh had said earlier. "They will be trained in crew and service module designed by ISRO, learn to operate it, work around it and do simulations."

Centrifuge to train astronauts in simulations of G-force at the GCRC. Image Credit: Kosmos/Wordpress

Centrifuge to train astronauts in simulations of G-force at the GCRC. Image Credit: Kosmos/Wordpress

Indian Air Force Pilot Wing Commander Nikhil Rath is one among the four astronauts chosen for Gaganyaan, India’s first human spaceflight mission in 2022, as per a report in the New Indian Express. The Governor of Odisha Ganeshi Lal, and Union ministers congratulated Odisha-born Indian Air Force Wing Commander Nikhil Rath for his selection by ISRO for the Gaganyaan mission on Saturday.

Rath is among of the four astronaut-elects chosen by IAF and ISRO for the mission, all of whom are male pilots. No women will be part of the inaugural flight of Gaganyaan, an ISRO official had clarified in August 2019.

The first manned flight in the Gaganyaan program, originally scheduled for 2022, will feature three astronauts chosen from among the test pilots now in training. They were shortlisted from over 25 test pilots by the IAF. If all goes to plan, Rath and two others will fly to Earth orbit in a seven-day historic mission for the India and the Indian space agency.

The ₹10,000-crore Gaganyaan mission is now expected to take place in 2022, which happens to be the 75th anniversary of India's Independence.


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