India’s first ‘Gaganyaan’ human space flight mission is slated to take off in 2022 and the training for its crew, drawn from among experienced Indian Air Force pilots, has already commenced in Russia, according to S Somnath, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC).

Inaugurating the citizen familiarisation programme, participated by invited senior citizens as part of the World Space Week -2019 at the VSSC campus, he said the short duration mission to be undertaken at the low earth orbit (LEO) within 300-400 km from Earth, would also comprise an effective crew escape system, akin to ejection by pilots from fighter jets in the event of any possible rocket explosion. This is to prevent loss of human life and land them in sea for their safe recovery. Multiple trials in each stage of the mission are in different stages of progress. The prestigious mission had been taken up in accordance with the Prime Minister’s 2018 independence day speech.

The director elicited opinions of the senior citizens on the growing budgetary requirements of India’s space research programmes, adding that they had the right to know how and for what purposes tax payers’ money was being utilised by ISRO.

Somanath said India’s space research programmes had substantially contributed to the country’s overall economic development, covering a large spectrum of areas touching on defence requirements, agricultural production, accurate weather forecast, and industrial developments, and new are continuously being added.

Notable among the achievements of ISRO programmes was its high productivity in space applications in the recent past, enabling it to undertake increased satellite launch programmes year-on-year, while retaining its staff strength at the same level from what it was in 1985.

About 400 senior citizens attended the day-long programmes, based on online registration, and the activities included lectures by eminent scientists, video presentations, panel discussions and a visit to the ISRO museum.