The Indian Air Force (IAF) has completed the first step of selecting astronauts for the Gaganyaan mission. The process took place at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine at Bengaluru this week.
According to the IAF’s tweet, the selected test pilots were subject to extensive physical exercise tests, laboratory investigations, radiological examinations, clinical probes and psychological evaluations. Three pilots will be onboard the Gaganyaan spacecraft, which will travel in low-Earth orbit in 2022. The astronauts are scheduled to remain in space for about a week before returning.
The IAF also tweeted eight photographs from these test sessions, six of which bear date stamps from July, indicating that is when the selection process began. One showing a group of personnel posing in a line is from August. A single photo is undated.
#MissionGaganyaan -IAF completed Level-1 of Indian Astronaut selection at Institute of Aerospace Medicine. Selected Test Pilots underwent extensive physical exercise tests, lab investigations, radiological tests, clinical tests & evaluation on various facets of their psychology. pic.twitter.com/RKidla7Bzc
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) September 6, 2019
On August 30, reports quoting a senior ISRO official from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) emerged where claiming that none of the astronauts on the inaugural flight of the mission are likely to be women. This was because ISRO was only considering test pilots from the Armed Forces, and none of them are women. However, the reports indicated that personnel from other departments are likely to be considered for future missions.
Meanwhile, Times of India has reported that the pilots are likely to all be below 40 years of age. Test pilots, the newspaper quoted India’s first man in space Rakesh Sharma as saying, would be needed due for their specialisation and skills. Test pilots receive additional flight training and are employed to evaluate experimental and modified aircraft, considered to be a high risk job.
A senior official was quoted by PTI saying the short-listing process was being done in batches. A final step still remains to be completed, after which three groups of three candidates each will be sent to Russia for further training.
Late in June, India signed a deal with Russia’s Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of the state-run Roscosmos State Corporation, to train astronauts for the country’s first manned space mission. Glavkosmos is also understood to be providing support for conducting medical examinations and with the selection procedure. Last month, the Union cabinet approved the foundation of an ISRO Technical Liaison Unit in Moscow for smoother cooperations, mainly for Gaganyaan.