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After Fab 4, next round of astronaut selection may begin in 6 month

2 months ago 64

BENGALURU: In a firm indication that India’s endeavours of sending astronauts to space will not be a one-off show of strength but a programme for sustained human presence in space, the process to select the second batch of astronauts for follow-up missions could begin in six months.
The current astronaut training centre in Bengaluru — where India’s Fabulous-4, Group Captains Prashanth Nair, Ajit Krishnan and Angad Prathap, and Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla, are training — is designed to cater only to demands of the first mission under Gaganyaan and


will build a larger

training facility


As reported by TOI earlier, Isro is considering multiple locations for the larger facility, including Challakere in Chitradurga, some 200km from Bengaluru and


on the outskirts of the city, where Isro already has a guest house.
Sources now indicate that the larger facility — most likely in Devanahalli although Challakere is not ruled out yet — could accommodate 25-30 astronauts and maybe even their families.

Isro chairman S Somanath told TOI in an exclusive interview: “We’ve not made such a plan yet as it is yet to evolve…It is clear that the

Gaganyaan programme

has to continue. So, we need to induct additional crew members and that process, maybe, should start in six months. We’ll work with IAF to identify a new set of crew members… It may not be in tens, maybe only four.”
ECLSS facility
The new members will get trained for follow-on Gaganyaan missions, he said. “...Periodicity of Gaganyaan missions won’t be very frequent to start with becasue for sustained missions we will also need the

space station

to be ready. We’re only building that (first unit) by 2028, which won’t be human-capable. It will take more time for that. So, where the final astronaut facility will be decided later,” Somanath added.
He said, at Devanahalli, Isro is building the Environment Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) facility and technical facilities for the

Human Space Flight Centre

(HSFC), which is currently using UR Rao Satellite Centre’s space.
ECLSS is a critical technology for astronauts’ health during the flight, during their time in space and during the return, and Isro, which initially had plans of procuring this technology is now developing everything from scratch.
First mission could fly just 1
While the initial plan for the first Gaganyaan mission was to send “two-three” astronauts to space, the selection of only four was indicative that only two may be sent going by global practice of shortlisting.
“I cannot tell how many will eventually go. The three uncrewed missions and abort missions must be completed, even after which there could be residual issues. So it depends on how confident we are at the end of that. A national committee will decide on this later,” Somanath said.
“...We’re building it for two people, not three…While we’re building it for two, we could even decide to send only one, but we need not take that decision now,” he added.
ISS mission
All four Gaganyaan astronauts-elect will go to the US by end of 2024 to train and become part of the crew that will go to the

International Space Station

(ISS), which was announced during PM Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Washington.
“While all four will go to train, only one will go to the ISS. The primary astronaut will go through full-fledged training, the back-up one will train a little less. The other two will also go for ground-level training,” Somanath said.

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