The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is working closely with a group of astronauts, as well as doctors, to build a crew module that deals with the rigors of space travel better than what has been the precedent. Plans for how progress is being made towards India’s flagship manned space program, Gaganyaan, were shared by S Somnath, chairman of Isro, at a brainstorming session earlier this month.
The chief of India’s central space agency said that the chosen astronauts for Gaganyaan offer experience-based feedback on the impact of light, edges and other factors inside a cockpit. Such factors would be crucial in defining how the crew module (or the orbital module) would be eventually developed.
Somnath said that Isro is presently looking at “how doctors can connect with the human spacecraft design,” for which the engineering division of Gaganyaan is working in tandem with the doctors empaneled by the space agency. “If you have to conduct a successful human space flight and sustain it in India, we need a strong pool of doctors who will get involved in this human spaceflight mission as well,” he added.
Space module designs take into account severe gravitational forces, as well as the rigors of a mission’s exit and re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Alongside adding redundancies to improve the aspect of safety in manned space missions, modern crew modules such as SpaceX’s Crew Dragon take into account friendlier surroundings, and better ergonomics in seating and controls, as part of their offerings.
Gaganyaan would be India’s first own manned space mission, for which the first launch is now expected to take place next year. However, the first launches are expected to be trial launches – beginning with unmanned launches, eventually culminating in manned trials ahead of an official launch to space.
The first uncrewed Gaganyaan trial was initially tipped for late last year, and subsequently this year, before union science minister Jitendra Singh told Parliament earlier this month that the launch is now expected next year.
This, however, would not be the very first time that an Indian would travel to space. In April 1984, Indian Air Force Wing Commander, Rakesh Sharma, became the first Indian to fly to space as part of the erstwhile Soviet Union’s Interkosmos program that sought to help the nation’s allies with their own space programs. However, while astronauts of Indian origin have flown to space, no Indian citizen has since achieved this feat.
India was the 14th nation to see a person of their nationality fly to space. So far, a total of 42 countries have seen astronauts from their nation reach space – although since USA’s last crewed mission, the Apollo 17 in December 1972 – no astronaut has flown beyond low Earth orbit.