Woman Sans ‘Mission Gaganyaan’: ISRO official

(A representational image)

The inaugural flight of India’s ‘Gaganyaan’ mission is unlikely to have a woman astronaut because the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is looking at test pilots from the Armed Forces and none of them have any women in that post, a senior official from the space agency said Wednesday. Though women appear to be ruled out for the moment, civilians, including women, will be part of future manned missions, the official added.

ISRO has begun the process of short-listing probable candidates for its first manned mission and it should be completed by next month, the official further stated. Short-listed candidates will be sent to Russia for training after November.

The first Gaganyaan flight scheduled for 2022 will carry three astronauts, who will be picked from among the test pilots in the Armed Forces. “Most maiden missions undertaken by different countries in the past had test pilots. So we are adopting the same policy,” the official said. “The civilians will be part of the project in future missions,” the official added.

It should be stated here that India’s first man in space Rakesh Sharma, who flew aboard the Soyuz T-11, launched April 2, 1984, was an Indian Air Force pilot.

It is also noteworthy that in January 2019, Chairman K Sivan himself had assured that India’s first human space flight would not be without a woman.

“We, of course, would like to have women also to be there (on the space flight). You would remember our Prime Minister had mentioned son or daughter while announcing the human space flight. It would be very good if a woman is part of the first flight. But these things are still to be discussed and finalised. The selection process (for choosing the astronauts) has not started yet,” The Indian Express had quoted Sivan.

India has signed agreements with Russia and France for cooperation on the Gaganyaan mission. Last month, the Cabinet approved setting up an ISRO Technical Liaison Unit in Moscow for smoother cooperation, mainly for the Gaganyaan project.

The ambitious Gaganyaan mission was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day speech in 2018. The total fund requirement for Mission Gaganyaan is nearly Rs 10,000 crore and includes cost of technology development, flight hardware realization and essential infrastructure elements.

Two unmanned flights and one manned flight will be undertaken as part of Gaganyaan programme.

(With inputs from PTI)

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