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Dosa,or parantha: At space mission control,it’s up in the air

‘Vyomanaut’ roots to decide menu on India’s first manned space mission

Written by Saritha Rai | Bangalore | Published: March 12, 2012 3:20:00 am

Of the many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ vexing institutions working on the country’s first manned space mission,the “Dosa vs Parantha” conundrum is perhaps the most intriguing.

Plans for the ambitious space flight are being worked out at the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Antariksh Bhavan headquarters in Bangalore. Three hours drive away in Mysore,food technicians at the Defence Food Research Laboratory have started designing an Indian space menu keeping food weight and volume in mind.

The challenge: should the fare consist of a permutation of dosa-idli-uttappam-bisi bele bath or parantha-khichdi-roti-sabzi. The answer is pegged to whether the Indian to be launched into space is from the southern states or the north.

“It all comes down to who is the vyomanaut,and what is appetising to that person,” Dr A S Bawa,director of the DFRL,told The Indian Express. Vyomanaut is Indian coinage for astronaut,where vyoma is the Sanskrit word for space or sky. Preliminary meetings on the menu have already taken place.

ISRO is also caught up with other pressing challenges on the manned space flight. After two devastating failures,a third version of the rocket launch vehicle,GSLV,was scheduled for test launch in mid-2012. That may not be on schedule,the delays only compounded by the hostility between current and past officials of ISRO over the Devas scandal.

The fate of the manned flight ultimately hinges on the coming Union Budget. Substantial funding will boost the speed of the mission. Early estimates put the cost at over Rs 16,000 crore.

ISRO will then come to the question of whether prospective vyomanauts will be picked from the armed forces,or would civilians qualify.

At DRFL,there is much excitement. When Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma blasted off aboard a Russian Soyuz collaborative mission,the DRFL had concocted only two items,a mango bar and a fruit drink concentrate. “This time around,the mission will be entirely Indian and so will be the menu,” said Dr Bawa. “We want a satisfied user.”

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