Gaganyaan, India’s first manned space mission: 4 exceptional pilots begin their vigorous training in Russia

Yash Shukla
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ISRO’s Gaganyaan: Four Indian Air Force pilots who were selected to lead the country’s first manned space mission, have begun their basic training at Russia’s Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (YGCTC). Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO is aiming to send India’s first manned space mission named Gaganyaan by December 2021. The one-year-long training will come to an end in February 2021 after which the pilots would be provided mission-specific training by ISRO in India.

Welcoming the trainee astronauts aboard, training centre head and veteran Russian test pilot Pavel Vlasov exuded confidence in the pilots and hoped that their flying experience will come to their aid in understanding space technology.

The training will comprise of high-powered biomedical training coupled with intense physical exercises in order to help trainees adapt to the adverse conditions in the space. Hands-on training for the pilots will be provided on the Russian Soyuz aircraft which has the formidable legacy of training hundreds of astronauts. Soyuz frequently takes astronauts to the International Space Station. The training spree won’t stop there as the trainee astronauts will also be trained in short-term weightlessness mode on a special II-76MDK aircraft and taught skills to meet extraneous circumstances including the abnormal landing of their spaceships in various terrains.

The four exceptional IAF pilots who made it to the final selection were shortlisted from a battery of 60 IAF pilots who were sent to Bengaluru’s Institute of Aerospace Medicine. Russian cosmonaut and aerospace medicine expert Valeriyevich Kotov had helped ISRO in shortlisting the pilots for the training. Russia is considered as one of the world pioneers in space technology only next to the United States. Russia which was part of the former USSR honed its space power during the cold war years as space became one of the avenues of one-upmanship between the United States and the USSR.

ISRO, back home, has also got on its work of designing a crew model according to the needs of the Gaganyaan mission. Soon after their space training, these four pilots who so far defended the country’s frontiers in the skies, will don the spacesuit and keep the tricolour high in the arena of space.