The IAF’s Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) will play an active role in identifying and training astronauts for the daunting task of India’s first human space flight, Gaganyaan, proposed to be launched in 2022, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said in Bengaluru.
“IAF was actively involved in the selection of the first cosmonaut and will be actively involved in the manned space programme of the nation. It is the greatness of this organisation (IAM) that we have something like this in the country that can do the job at a very short notice as the honorable Prime Minister mentioned,” Dhanoa said, while referring to PM Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech that India’s first manned space flight will take off in 2022.
He was speaking at the opening of the 57th annual conference of the Institute of Aerospace Medicine.
The human space programme “is going to throw different kinds of challenges —not just physical but also psychological. The astronaut will be alone and very far away from home. At that point if you are imbalanced by small things then it can cause undesirable accidents. The IAM will play a key role in human engineering support and development of the space capsule for the crew,” the IAF chief told a gathering of aerospace medicine experts from across the country.
“The daunting task needs to be accomplished in a time-bound manner under the stewardship of the Indian Society of Aerospace Medicine,” he said. The IAM was actively involved in the selection and training of India’s two IAF pilots, who also became the country’s first astronauts — Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, who flew to space on board the Russian Soyuz T11 in 1984; and Air Commodore Ravish Malhotra. After 34 years, the IAM has been tasked again with finding and training astronauts for a human space flight.
At the institute’s 57th annual conference, the first Indian human space flight and the challenges of preparing for it at short notice was a key topic of discussion. “The time frame has already been laid out in the Independence Day speech. I am confident that in the coming years IAF will rise up to the occasion and provide solutions for astronaut selection, astronaut training, human engineering, development of crew module, monitoring of health. We are also expected to support the space crew through the entire gamut of the mission,” Air Marshal C K Ranjan, the commandant of the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, said.
India’s efforts to launch a human being into space is complicated as the mission will be attempted without a trial of sending animals into space, as done by countries, the IAM’s commandant Air Commodore Anupam Agarwal said.
The process of selection of IAF pilots, who will be the first astronauts on the manned space flight will take 12 to 14 months, the Air Commodore said. When foreign astronauts flew on the Russian Soyuz on international missions, they spend two years training in Russia to familiarise themselves with nuances of culture of their fellow astronauts, he said.
Air Marshal (retd) N V Amaresh, who delivered the Subroto Mukherjee oration at the conference, said a proposal was made in 1985 for an Indian woman from the DRDO to fly on a space mission with NASA, but the mission was abandoned after the crash of the Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986.