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  India   All India  02 Jan 2020  4 IAF fighter pilots for space flight

4 IAF fighter pilots for space flight

Published : Jan 2, 2020, 1:05 am IST
Updated : Jan 2, 2020, 1:05 am IST

Isro chief announces Chandrayaan-3, with lander & rover, to moon in 2021.

K. Sivan
 K. Sivan

Bengaluru: Three-and-a-half decades after Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma journeyed into space along with two cosmonauts of the erstwhile Soviet Union, four young combat jet pilots of the Indian Air Force will set off to Russia later this month to train for the historic flight to outer space – likely either at the end of next year or early 2022 – onboard an Indian rocket as part of the Gaganyaan programme announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mark India’s 75th year of Independence.

Though four pilots, all men, would train, just as Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma and Air Commodore Ravish Malhotra did in the early 1980s, one of them would journey into outer space in a Made-in-India spaceship to carry out six experiments for about a week, Dr K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, announced in Bengaluru on Wednesday. This flight of an Indian to outer space, on board an indigenous rocket launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota Range, would be preceded by a test flight involving a humanoid next year. “We made good progress on Gaganyaan in 2019. Many of the designs were completed, and the process of selection of astronauts is complete. Many systems will be tested before the flight (by an Indian), including human rating of propulsion modules and the crew escape system,” he told the media.  


The budget for this ambitious outing into space is Rs 14,000 crores.

Dr Sivan said these potential astronauts were chosen at the end of endurance tests carried out at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Bengaluru, and facilities in Russia. Wednesday’s announcement ends all speculation on the possibility of an Indian woman qualifying for voyage into outer space.

The Gaganyaan programme, an indigenous mission which would take Indian astronauts to outer space, was announced by Mr Modi during his Independence Day speech in 2018. It is an Indian-crewed orbital spacecraft intended to send astronauts into space for a minimum of seven days by 2022, as part of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme. The spacecraft, being developed by Isro, consists of a service module and a crew module, collectively known as the Orbital Module. It will be for the first time that India will launch its manned mission to space, making the country fourth in line to have sent a human to space.


Chandrayaan-3 in 2021

Three months after an unsuccessful attempt to land on the moon, Indian space scientists announced the third lunar outing to accomplish a soft landing in the South Pole region in 2021. Unlike Chandrayaan-2, which had an orbiter, a lander (Vikram) and a rover (Pragyan), next year’s mission would be restricted to a lander and a rover. Incidentally, the names for lander and rover would be announced later, according to Isro chairman K. Sivan. Set to cost about `600 crores, Chandrayaan-3 would be designed and manufactured over the next 14-16 months, with a specially designed module set to take the lander and rover to lunar orbit before accomplishing a soft touchdown on lunar soil.


In the early hours of September 7, Indian space scientists endured heartbreak as Vikram, the lander, crashed while descending for a touchdown. “The velocity reduction failure was due to internal reasons,” Dr Sivan said about the unsuccessful mission, but expressed confidence that Chandrayaan-2 (orbiter) would last many years and continue to beam scientific data on the earth’s nearest astral neighbour.

Tags: rakesh sharma, chandrayaan-3