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India announces first ever astronauts it will send to space in Gaganyaan mission

India announces first ever astronauts it will send to space in Gaganyaan mission

India has announced the names of the first astronauts to be launched to space from Indian soil as part of the country’s historic Gaganyaan mission.

Prime minister Narendra Modi unveiled the four Air Force pilots shortlisted to fly as part of the Gaganyaan crewed mission to space slated to be launched next year.

Mr Modi announced on Tuesday that the four astronauts part of the mission would be Indian Air Force (IAF) group captain Prashant Balakrishnan Nair, group captain Ajit Krishnan, wing commander Subhanshu Shukla, and group captain Angad Pratap.

The final mission is expected to carry only three of the astronauts into a low-Earth orbit of 400km altitude in a 5 ton capsule for about three days, and bring them safely back to Earth by landing in India’s sea waters.

India’s science minister Jitendra Singh announced earlier this month that a female-looking robot astronaut named “Vyommitra” would also be flown along with the crew to assist them.

The astronauts have been training for the mission for the last five years in both Russian and Indian facilities.

India’s space agency Isro began setting up a Human Space Flight Centre in the south Indian IT-hub city of Bengaluru in 2019 to train astronauts for future missions, including for Gaganyaan.

Astronauts have been preparing for the mission at the Bengaluru facility by running simulations, going through physical fitness and medical training, as well as yoga and flight suit training, according to Isro.

“They (the astronaut designates) are not just four names or identities, they represent the space aspirations of 1.4 billion people of our country,” PM Modi said while addressing a gathering.

The mission would be the first time India would launch its astronauts to space from its own soil.

They are slated to take off in Isro’s heavy-lift launcher LVM-3 reconfigured for the crewed mission in 2025.

While Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma was the first ever Indian to have flown to space, he did so in 1984 from the Russian spaceport Baikonur Cosmodrome located in Kazakhstan.

“After over 40 years, Indians will be travelling to space again. But this time, the launchpad, rocket, and countdown will all be ours,” Mr Modi said.