Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced names of India’s first ‘astronaut designates’—Group Captain Prashant Balakrishnan Nair, Group Captain Ajith Krishnan, Group Captain Angad Prathap and Wing Commander Shubanshu Shukla, all Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter pilots—for Gaganyaan, India’s human spaceflight mission, at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) here on Tuesday.

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The final crew for the mission will be picked from these four pilots who have been undergoing training in various aspects of space flight in India and abroad. Shortlisted through a rigorous selection process, they attended training sessions in Russia to begin with, and later at the Astronaut Training Facility at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Bengaluru.

The Prime Minister also decorated the four pilots with ‘wings’ for the Gaganyaan Mission at the VSSC in the presence of Arif Mohammed Khan, Governor Kerala; Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister; V Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs; and S Somanath, Chairman , ISRO.

Earlier, the ISRO Chairman took the Prime Minister around a display of equipment related to the Gagayaan Mission, including Vyommitra, a humanoid robot developed by the ISRO for the programme.

During the visit, the Prime Minister also reviewed the progress of the Gaganyaan Mission and dedicated to the nation three technical facilities developed at a cost of around ₹18,000 crore. These included a Trisonic Wind Tunnel at the VSSC here; integration facilities for the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) at the Satish Dhavan Space Centre at Sriharikota; and the Semi-cryogenic Integrated Engine and Stage Test Facility (SIET) at the ISRO Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu.