Experts from other fields can become astronauts in post-Gaganyaan missions: Programme director | India News



NEW DELHI: Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will sustain the human spaceflight programme beyond the 2022 Gaganyaan mission and “those spaceflight missions will give an opportunity to youth excelling in other specific fields to be astronauts and do research in space”.
Dr V R Lalithambika, director, human spaceflight programme, during a special session on Gaganyaan at the International Conference & Exhibition On Space — Ushering The New Era In Indian Space Sector, organised by the CII, said on Thursday, “There has been a tremendous national interest among youths in the Gaganyaan mission. For the first phase of Gaganyaan, people with flying background (four IAF pilots) have to be necessarily chosen.
“However, the sustained human spaceflight programme will provide an opportunity for a much larger and more inclusive participation of people who are excelling in specific areas, which are of relevance to sustained human spaceflights.”
She also said that like other space agencies that have sustained their human spaceflight missions, India will also need sustained human spaceflight missions post-Gaganyaan in order to “gain substantial benefits for the country from the programme, which will also provide a golden opportunity to our startups and MSMEs.”
The senior space scientist said R&D should be done in multiple domains like engineering, human-centric and life sciences. She also said that apart from advanced materials, polymers, optics, robotics and others have immense potential for the industry.
Lalithambika said, “In an emerging space scenario, the spaceflight programme can lead to an industry that will employ people for working in space. It will be very expensive, but these emerging space industries would need to produce tremendous value (of products and services) for people working on the Earth, only then they would be able to get a positive return on their investments.”
During the session, Unnikrishnan Nair, director, Human Space Flight Centre, said, “For the Gaganyaan mission, of the 28 proposals from industry and academia, six experiments (four biological and two related to fluid and material) have been selected for the two unmanned missions next year.” In order to sustain the spaceflight programme, “we will have a full-fledged campus… We also have international collaborations in a big way and some contracts have been signed with several space agencies like Nasa, CNES (France), Russia, JAXA and Australian space agency, and countries like Germany, Canada and Romania.”
“We are also working very seriously on inflatable space habitat (pressurised structures capable of supporting life in outer space) for multiple applications as part of probable habitat in space, moon and other planets,”he said. “Once the short-term mission is over, we will be working on long-term missions in space. AI and robotics will play a big role in such missions and international collaborations will be required,” he said.
From such space missions, several spin-off technologies will be developed that will ultimately benefit society. For example, low-cost inflatable space habitat can be used in high-altitude areas for setting up human bases, Nair said.
Four satellites ready for launch: Isro director Kunhikrishnan
Isro has targeted to launch 12 satellites during 2019-2020. “Of them, eight have been launched and four satellites are fully built and ready for launch,” said P Kunhikrishnan, director, UR Rao Satellite Centre, Isro, at the space conference. The four satellites are new-generation communication satellites GISAT-1, GSAT-12R and earth observation (surveillance) satellites Microsat-2A and RISAT-2BR2.
While three are ready for shipment, GiSAT-1, whose launch in March was deferred due to a technical reason, is ready for launch. Owing to several Covid-related restrictions in several cities where Isro centres are located, the space agency has been forced to stall its satellite launches. It will resume only when the situation normalises.
Kunhikrishnan said India has currently 52 satellites up in the sky. He said the participation of the industry in satellite programmes in future involves a transition from ‘build to print’ to ‘build to specs’, which entails migration from the current approach of working with Isro design to independent design and developing innovative products on turnkey basis.


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