Photo used for representational purposes.
Photo used for representational purposes.(Photo: Altered by The Quint)
  • 1. Several Years of Grueling Preparations
  • 2. The Costs
  • 3. Would The Mission be Completely Indigenous?
  • 4. The Million Dollar Question – Is 2022 a Realistic Deadline?
What Would it Take to Become the Astronaut Aboard Gaganyaan 2022?

A timer has been set and the clock is ticking. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on the occasion of 72nd Independence Day, that an Indian astronaut, be it a man or a woman, will go on a space odyssey by 2022 on board the ‘Gaganyaan’, everyone is curious how will India accomplish this feat.

The mission was back in news on Friday, 28 December, when the Cabinet approved the programme with a budget of around Rs 10,000 crore to send a three-member team into space for at least seven days. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “a three-member team will be sent to the Earth’s lower orbit for at least seven days.”

The preparations imperative for such a manned mission – way more complex than unmanned missions that India has already successfully carried out (Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan) – are not just related to designing and building the spacecraft, but also grueling training which the selected astronauts will undertake.

So here’s a lowdown on the challenges the selected astronauts and ISRO will have to tackle and the groundwork that has already been laid.

  • 1. Several Years of Grueling Preparations

    To get a sense of what it would take to travel into space and how long the training process will continue – we spoke to two experts in the field – retired NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and retired Air Commodore Ravish Malhotra, who served as the backup cosmonaut for Rakesh Sharma, the only Indian to travel in space.

    Calling the training process for an astronaut a long one, former NASA astronaut Steve Swanson – who has to his credit almost 200 days in space and over 26 hours worth of spacewalks – told The Quint that two basic requirements for the job are a “background in engineering or science”, along with some amount of “experience in an operational environment”, like being a pilot or a scientist in a remote environment.

    “…once they are selected as an astronaut, the specific training on how the spacecraft [operates] begins, along with training on how to perform rendezvous (flying one vehicle to another and docking while in orbit), and how to do spacewalks. This usually lasts about two years, but can depend upon the complexity of the spacecraft and what other tasks are required.”
    Steve Swanson, retired NASA astronaut, to The Quint

    Following this, training for the specific flight in question starts, which, Swanson said, can take another one to two years depending on what exactly the mission is. Understanding the exact profiles of the mission, working with people on the ground at the flight control centre, and training for many off-nominal situations including emergencies, are all part of this stage of the preparations.

    "One issue we have is that there is no good way to train how to work and live in the microgravity environment (floating). So, we try to always have a flown crew member fly with a rookie crew member to help them adjust quickly and efficiently to this new environment. Although this is not necessary, it is very highly desired," Swanson said.

    Concurring with Swanson, retired Air Commodore Ravish Malhotra pointed out the need for astronauts to undergo both theoretical and practical training rigorously, along with a thorough familiarity with systems on board the spacecraft.

     Photo used for representational purposes.
    Cosmonaut Ravish Malhotra. 
    (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@aisoffice)

    Saying the training will take around two years, Malhotra recounted his own experience:

    “During our training, we were imparted zero gravity training in an aircraft specifically modified for the purpose. By doing an over-the top manoeuvre, a period of zero gravity was achieved for about 35 seconds.”
    Ravish Malhotra to The Quint

    The three-member crew for the Gaganyaan mission is expected to be selected from a group of 30 candidates.

    Also Read : Meet Ravish Malhotra, Who Almost Became the 1st Indian in Space


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