The first level of Indian astronaut selection for India’s proposed human mission—Ganaganyaan—has been completed in Bengaluru. India hopes to send humans to space and bring them back in 2022.
The selection was done at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) here, an institute under the Indian Air Force (IAF).
“IAF completed Level-1 of astronaut selection at IAM. Selected Test Pilots underwent extensive physical exercise tests, lab investigations, radiological tests, clinical tests & evaluation on various facets of their psychology,” the IAF said on Friday.
The TOI was the first to report on July 9 that India’s first set of astronauts will be test pilots and that they are likely to all be under the age of 40 years. The report also pointed out that it was unlikely that there will any woman on the crew.
Although Isro was initially looking at all probable candidates for the first mission, TOI had learnt in July that the space agency has agreed to go with test pilots for the first mission in 2022 given the short timeline for the programme and look for others in subsequent missions.
“…For the first mission (Ganganyaan) the entire crew will be test-pilots. Isro and IAF have agreed upon this,” another senior official part of the Gaganyaan planning team, said.
“Globally, 60% of all astronauts have been testing pilots. Unless there is some drastic decision in the next few months, India is unlikely to send a woman in the first human spaceflight mission,” another source privy to Gangyaan’s astronaut selection programme told TOI.
Why Test Pilots?
“It’s quite straight forward because space technology is essentially extension aviation. And test pilots, by virtue of their specialisations, have always been called upon to study deeply all that can probably go wrong in something that has not been tried before. That gives them the edge as they are experienced in preparing themselves better. Also, in case things do not go as per planned, their specialisation and experience kicks-in and helps them analyse the situation. This makes them the natural choice,” Rakesh Sharma had told TOI.
Test pilots are both physiologically and psychologically trained to adapt to situations that a space flight demands.
As reported by TOI earlier, the Gaganyaan programme will see the Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) select a pool of 30 astronauts—keeping in mind future human spaceflight missions—of which three sets of three astronauts each will be shortlisted for the first mission in 2022. Finally, three of these will go to space.
Will space suits come from Russia?
Further, India has officially signed an agreement with Russia for the advanced training of astronauts that are finally picked.
Most recently, Russia even indicated that the Indian mission may even use Russian space suits.
In a statement issued from Moscow, Russian space agency Roscosmos, said: “…Russia and India are expecting to negotiate the contracts to supply windows, crew seats and spacesuits for the Indian crewed mission.”
While India and Russia are co-operating on these fronts France has also offered cooperation, especially in the field of training flight surgeons.