Modi names 4 astronauts, calls them India’s 4 Shaktis

The Asian Age.  | Shashi Bhushan

Modi called the introduction of the four Gaganyaan astronauts a historic occasion

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hands-over wings to astronauts-designate Shubanshu Shukla, Prashanth Balakrishnan Nair, Angad Prathap and Ajit Krishnan who have been selected to be the astronauts on India’s first crewed mission to space 'Gaganyaan Mission', at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), in Thiruvananthapuram, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced the names of the four astronauts for India's first-ever human space flight mission, Gaganyaan — Group Captains Prashanth Balakrishnan Nair, Ajit Krishnan, Angad Pratap and Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla of the Indian Air Force.

Modi called the introduction of the four Gaganyaan astronauts a historic occasion. “They are not just four names or individuals; they are four ‘Shakti’ of carrying the aspirations of 140-crore Indians into space,” he said. “An Indian is going into space after 40 years. This time around, the countdown, the timing and the rocket belong to us."

India’s only astronaut so far has been Wg Cmdr Rajesh Sharma, who travelled to space on a Russian Soyuz-11 spacecraft on a week-long mission in April 1984. Sharma retired as chief test pilot with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Wg Cmdr Ravish Malhotra, who retired as Air Commodre, was his stand-by.

At the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, Modi reviewed the progress of the Gaganyaan mission and bestowed "astronaut wings" on the four astronauts. He also inaugurated three important space infrastructure projects worth around `1,800 crore. — the SLV Integration Facility at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota; the new ‘semi-cryogenics integrated engine and stage test facility’ at the Isro Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri and the trisonic wind tunnel at VSSC, Thiruvananthapuram.

Referring to the astronaut-designates, the Modi said that their names have been conjoined with India’s success and they symbolise the trust, courage, valour and discipline of today’s India.He lauded their dedication and spirit towards training and said that they are the representatives of India’s amrit generation that never gives up and shows the strength to challenge all adversities. He noted the role of yoga as part of the training module.

Underscoring that every nation’s development journey has its special moments that define not just the present but the future as well, Modi said that today is such an occasion for India when the present generation can take pride in the historic achievements of the nation in land, air, water and space.

Pointing to the statement he made from Ayodhya about the beginning of a new "kaal chakra", Prime Minister said that India is continuously expanding its space in the global order and glimpses of it can be seen in the country’s space programme.The Prime Minister recalled India’s Chandrayaan success as India became the first nation to land on the South Pole of the Moon. “Today Shiv-Shakti Point is introducing the entire world to Indian prowess,” he said.Praising the role of "Nari Shakti" (women power) in India’s space programme, the Prime Minister said, “Whether it is the Chandrayaan or the Gaganyaan, no such project can be imagined without women scientists.”

In his address, Mdi observed that the success achieved by the Isro encourages children to become scientists today. “The countdown of the rocket inspires lakhs of children in India. Those making paper planes today dream of becoming scientists like you,” an elated Prime Minister said.

Modi also recounted various records achieved by India's space sector and pointed out that, as per estimates, India’s space economy will grow fivefold and touch $44 billion in the next 10 years. He said that India is becoming a global commercial hub in the field of space and in the coming days, India will once again go to the Moon.He also informed the gathering about the new ambition of retrieving samples from the Moon's surface. Modi said that Venus is also on the radar and by 2035, India will have its own space station.

“In this Amrit Kaal, an Indian astronaut will land on the Moon in an Indian rocket,” the Prime Minister added.