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Mission Gaganyaan: Training India’s Astronauts for Space Travel

The selected astronauts will undergo training in both Russia and in India

Updated
Explainers
3 min read
Mission Gaganyaan: Training India’s Astronauts for Space Travel
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Snapshot

On 15 August, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that an Indian astronaut will embark on a space odyssey by 2022 on board the ‘Gaganyaan’, everyone wants to know how we plan to accomplish this feat.

At the heart of this ambitious project are four Indian test pilots who were selected to undergo training to become astronauts, after a strict selection process. Finally, two of them will go on this unique space journey. Here is how these astronauts are being trained.

Mission Gaganyaan: Training India’s Astronauts for Space Travel

  1. 1. The Basics

    An IAF pilot undergoing astronaut selection process. 
    An IAF pilot undergoing astronaut selection process. 
    (Photo Courtesy: Indian Air Force)

    The initial part of the training would provide the selected astronauts with lessons in basic biology, physics, medicine and other subjects.

    Selected astronauts are trained in these aspects:

    1. Navigation and astronomy

    2. Thermal control systems – These keep all the spacecraft's component systems within acceptable temperature ranges

    3. Orbital mechanics – This is essentially an understanding of the motion of artificial satellites and space vehicles under the influence of forces such as gravity, atmospheric drag, rocket engine thrust etc

    4. Earth observation

    This training is given to deal with an emergency during any system failure, if manual intervention by the astronauts is required.

    Expand
  2. 2. Simulators to 'Experience' Space Conditions

    Indian astronauts undergoing training in Russia. 
    Indian astronauts undergoing training in Russia. 
    (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@glavkosmosJSC)

    Space travel can be challenging, and astronauts will have to handle conditions such as handling life in isolation over long periods of time, space disorientation, and microgravity – the condition of weightlessness that astronauts experience in their spacecraft on space missions.

    To train for such circumstances, simulator training is crucial. The Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) has simulators that are capable of simulating or 're-creating' the conditions of microgravity for the training of astronauts. IAM also boasts of a simulator that can simulate temperatures ranging from minus 20 degrees centigrade to 60 degrees, for training purposes.

    The astronauts will also undergo training in the isolation and disorientation chambers. In this training, different illusions are created to disorient the trainees. Another simulator provides training in handling atmospheric pressures as high as six times that on earth.

    Similar training will be provided to these astronauts at Russia’s Yuri Gagarin Centre as well, which is named after the first person ever to travel to space.

    Expand
  3. 3. Learning to Handle 'G-Forces'

    Indian astronauts undergoing training in Russia. 
    Indian astronauts undergoing training in Russia. 
    (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@glavkosmosJSC)

    During space travel the astronauts have to handle high gravitational force or 'g forces', especially while exiting and entering the earth’s atmosphere. The astronauts will be trained to develop the capacity to withstand such 'g forces' by getting them to spend time in centrifuge machines. The training involves the astronauts undergoing regular sessions in these spinning centrifuges, where they will experience high 'g forces'. With regular, gruelling sessions in these simulators, the trainees will develop the resistance to withstand high g forces.

    Two different simulators, one in Russia and one in India, will be used for this training.

    Expand
  4. 4. Learning to Operate The Gaganyaan

    After the astronauts complete the training modules mentioned above, they will be trained to operate various systems that will be used in the Gaganyaan mission. This training is expected to take place in India, with detailed lessons on each system which will be on the spacecraft. They will also be taught how to operate the spacecraft.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

The Basics

An IAF pilot undergoing astronaut selection process. 
An IAF pilot undergoing astronaut selection process. 
(Photo Courtesy: Indian Air Force)

The initial part of the training would provide the selected astronauts with lessons in basic biology, physics, medicine and other subjects.

Selected astronauts are trained in these aspects:

1. Navigation and astronomy

2. Thermal control systems – These keep all the spacecraft's component systems within acceptable temperature ranges

3. Orbital mechanics – This is essentially an understanding of the motion of artificial satellites and space vehicles under the influence of forces such as gravity, atmospheric drag, rocket engine thrust etc

4. Earth observation

This training is given to deal with an emergency during any system failure, if manual intervention by the astronauts is required.

ADVERTISEMENT

Simulators to 'Experience' Space Conditions

Indian astronauts undergoing training in Russia. 
Indian astronauts undergoing training in Russia. 
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@glavkosmosJSC)

Space travel can be challenging, and astronauts will have to handle conditions such as handling life in isolation over long periods of time, space disorientation, and microgravity – the condition of weightlessness that astronauts experience in their spacecraft on space missions.

To train for such circumstances, simulator training is crucial. The Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) has simulators that are capable of simulating or 're-creating' the conditions of microgravity for the training of astronauts. IAM also boasts of a simulator that can simulate temperatures ranging from minus 20 degrees centigrade to 60 degrees, for training purposes.

The astronauts will also undergo training in the isolation and disorientation chambers. In this training, different illusions are created to disorient the trainees. Another simulator provides training in handling atmospheric pressures as high as six times that on earth.

Similar training will be provided to these astronauts at Russia’s Yuri Gagarin Centre as well, which is named after the first person ever to travel to space.

Learning to Handle 'G-Forces'

Indian astronauts undergoing training in Russia. 
Indian astronauts undergoing training in Russia. 
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@glavkosmosJSC)

During space travel the astronauts have to handle high gravitational force or 'g forces', especially while exiting and entering the earth’s atmosphere. The astronauts will be trained to develop the capacity to withstand such 'g forces' by getting them to spend time in centrifuge machines. The training involves the astronauts undergoing regular sessions in these spinning centrifuges, where they will experience high 'g forces'. With regular, gruelling sessions in these simulators, the trainees will develop the resistance to withstand high g forces.

Two different simulators, one in Russia and one in India, will be used for this training.

ADVERTISEMENT

Learning to Operate The Gaganyaan

After the astronauts complete the training modules mentioned above, they will be trained to operate various systems that will be used in the Gaganyaan mission. This training is expected to take place in India, with detailed lessons on each system which will be on the spacecraft. They will also be taught how to operate the spacecraft.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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