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India’s First Human Spaceflight: Meet the Brave Men Chosen for Gaganyaan Mission

India has taken a major step towards its first crewed space mission, Gaganyaan, by unveiling the four Air Force pilots shortlisted for the historic journey. Scheduled for 2025, the mission aims to send three astronauts to a 400-kilometer orbit for a duration of three days.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been diligently preparing for this ambitious mission. They successfully tested the crew escape system in October 2023, demonstrating the astronauts’ safety in case of emergencies. Additionally, a robotic test flight is planned for 2024 to further solidify mission readiness.

At a ceremony held at the ISRO center in Thiruvananthapuram, the chosen astronauts were introduced and lauded for their dedication. Group Captains Prashanth Balakrishnan Nair, Ajit Krishnan, Angad Pratap, and Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla were described as ‘dreamers, adventurers, and valiant men preparing to go into space.’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself was present at the event, congratulating the astronauts and calling them ‘India’s pride.’ He further stated, ‘These are not just four names or four people. They are four powers who will carry the aspirations of 1.4 billion Indians to space. I congratulate and wish them all the best.’

These highly trained pilots underwent rigorous selection, including extensive physical and psychological evaluations. They also completed a demanding training program in Russia, as showcased in a video during the ceremony. The video provided a glimpse into their dedication, featuring them exercising, swimming, and practicing yoga to maintain peak physical and mental fitness.

Adding another exciting element to the mission, ISRO unveiled Vyommitra, a female humanoid robot slated for the 2024 test flight. This humanoid will play a crucial role in testing the life support systems and other critical aspects of the spacecraft before the crewed mission.

The Gaganyaan project, named after the Sanskrit word for ‘sky vehicle,’ carries immense significance for India. With a budget of 90 billion rupees ($1 billion), it represents a significant milestone in the nation’s spacefaring ambitions. If successful, India will become only the fourth country to send humans to space, following in the footsteps of the Soviet Union, the US, and China.

While India’s space program may be decades behind the US and China, the nation has made remarkable strides in recent years. In 2023, they achieved a historic lunar south pole landing with their Chandrayaan-3 mission. Additionally, they successfully launched Aditya-L1, the country’s first dedicated mission to study the Sun. Looking ahead, India has set ambitious goals for the future, aiming to establish a space station by 2035 and send a human mission to the Moon by 2040.

As India embarks on this historic journey towards human spaceflight, the nation’s spacefaring story is far from over. The upcoming years hold immense promise for groundbreaking discoveries and advancements, solidifying India’s position as a major player in the global space race. We at Vakilsearch are more than proud and wish team Gaganyaan all the best.

Akash G Varadaraj