India introduces four-member crew for its Gaganyaan space mission

Three-day trip will be country's first crewed voyage

From left, Gaganyaan mission astronauts Prashanth Balakrishnan Nair, Ajit Krishnan, Angad Pratap and Subhanshu Shukla. Photo: @barkhatrehan16 / X
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India on Tuesday announced the team of four military pilots who will travel on the country’s first crewed mission to space.

The Gaganyaan Mission, or “Sky Craft” in Hindi, aims to launch the astronauts to an orbit of 400km as part of a three-day mission.

The four officers are Prashanth Balakrishnan Nair, Ajit Krishnan, Angad Pratap and Shubhanshu Shukla, a government statement said.

The officers were selected after extensive physical and psychological tests from a pool of Indian Air Force pilots.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi awarded the four crew members “astronaut wings” at a space centre in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, southern India.

“These are not just four names or four people. These are four powers who will take the aspirations of 140 crore [1.4 billion] Indians to space,” Mr Modi said.

“Forty years later, an Indian is going to space. But this time, the timing, the countdown and the rocket belong to us,” he added, referring to Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma who went to space in 1984 as part of a Soviet mission.

The Gaganyaan mission will cost India about 90.23 billion rupees ($1.1 billion) and will involve the launch of a habitable space capsule which will return via a splashdown in the Indian Ocean.

The mission would make India, which has become a global pioneer in low-cost launches, only the fourth nation to send a crewed mission into space using a domestically built rocket, after the US, Russia and China.

The Indian Space Research Organisation will conduct 20 major tests on the spacecraft before launching humans into space, including sending up three uncrewed missions.

One of the flights will include launching Vyommitra, a robot astronaut, this year.

India is emerging as a leading space nation, having reached Mars in 2014. It also became the first country to successfully land a spacecraft near the unexplored south pole of the Moon in August last year.

Updated: March 05, 2024, 10:52 AM