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.
Saying the training will take around two years, Malhotra recounted his own experience:
The three-member crew for the Gaganyaan mission is expected to be selected from a group of 30 candidates.