Gaganyaan Mission: Timeline (PIB)

24 April 2020: ISRO invites technology proposals for human space flight missions

  • In August 2018, ISRO announced its first human space trip slated for around 2022, the ?10,000-crore Gaganyaan.
  • It plans to send three astronauts to a distance of 400 km in space in a special spacecraft. They will circle earth over three to seven days.
  • Four pilots of the Indian Air Force are currently training in Moscow to be the first set of potential candidates for Gaganyaan.

What happens to our body in space, and what are the risks? 

  • Scott Kelly was the first American to spend nearly one year in space aboard the International Space Station, twice the normal time.
  • The risks to human body in space are not the same for six months on the space station versus three years on a Mars mission.
  • The risks are grouped into five categories related to the stresses they place on the space traveller:
  1. Gravity fields,
  2. Isolation/confinement,
  3. Hostile/closed environments,
  4. Space radiation, and
  5. Distance from Earth.         
  • Transitioning from one gravity field to another affects spatial orientation, head-eye and hand-eye coordination, balance, locomotion, and one is more likely to experience motion sickness.
  • Bones lose minerals in space at a much faster rate than on earth, with density dropping at over 1% per month. 
  1. By comparison, the rate of bone loss for elderly men and women on Earth is from 1% to 1.5% per year. 
  2. Even after returning to Earth, bone loss might not be corrected by rehabilitation, so one could be at greater risk of osteoporosis-related fractures later in life. 
  • Astronauts lose muscle strength, endurance, and experience cardiovascular deconditioning since because of lack of gravity it does not take effort to float through space. 
  • The fluids in our body will shift upwards to our head, which could put pressure on your eyes causing vision problems. 
  • Astronauts are prone to develop kidney stones due to dehydration and increased excretion of calcium from their bones. 
  • Medications react differently in body in space.
  • On the space station, astronauts receive over ten times the radiation than what’s naturally occurring on Earth. 
  • Our planet’s magnetic field and atmosphere protect us from harsh cosmic radiation, but without that, we are more exposed to the treacherous radiation. 
  • Above Earth’s protective shielding, radiation exposure may increase our cancer risk.
  • Flu vaccine stimulates immune system, even in space. Also, inflammation increases while in space.

NASA studied an astronaut’s body with his Twin

  • NASA found that space affects an aspect of DNA that is related to aging and cancer.
  • Scott’s telomeres (endcaps of chromosomes that shorten as one ages) grew significantly longer in space.
  • It turned out that 93 percent of Scott’s genes returned to normal after landing, but according to NASA’s researchers, the remaining seven percent could indicate “longer term changes in genes related to his immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia.

11 Feb 2020: Four Indian pilots begin astronaut training in Russia

  • The four Indian pilots chosen as candidate-astronauts began their 12-month training at the Gagarin Research and Test Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC) in Moscow, Russian space business company Glavkosmos has announced.
  • The four candidates are fighter pilots from the Indian Air Force and were chosen from among hundreds of applicants over the last few months.
  • At the end of all training modules in India and Russia, one or two of the four will be finally named to circle the earth in the first crewed Gaganyaan, which is planned around 2022.
  • The Il-76MDK is an Ilyushin-78 military transport plane specially re-designed for parabolic flights of trainee astronauts and space tourists.
  • Gaganyaan, the human space flight Programme (HSP), seeks to put a three-man Indian crew in a low earth orbit for 5-7 days by the 75th Independence Day.
  • ISRO will also receive assistance from the French space agency CNES, in terms of expertise various fields including space medicine, astronaut health monitoring, radiation protection and life support.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is setting up a third launch pad at Sriharikota to undertake the Gaganyaan manned space flight programme.
  • In addition, ISRO is scouting for a location on the western sea coast near Gujarat to set up another launch pad for Small Satellite Launch Vehicles (SSLV).

Why GSLV Mk-III?

  • ISRO will use its GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle which can carry the heavier payload of the Gaganyaan.
  • One of the most important requirements is the development of a launch vehicle that can carry heavy payloads into space.
  • The spacecraft carrying human beings, called crew module, is likely to weigh in excess of 5 to 6 tonnes.
  • ISRO’s main launch vehicle, the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle), which carried the Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan missions too, can carry payloads that are barely up to 2 tonnes, and that too only to orbits at about 600 km altitude from the Earth’s surface.
  • That is why the development of GSLV Mk-III, a launch vehicle with capabilities to deliver much heavier payloads much deeper into space, was necessary.
  • The satellites normally launched by ISRO, like those for communication or remote sensing, are meant to remain in space, even when their life is over. Even Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan were not meant to return to Earth.
  • Any manned spacecraft, however, needs to come back. This involves mastering of the highly complicated and dangerous reentry and recovery ability.

Critical Technologies

  • ISRO has begun work on the manned mission in 2004, and that many of the critical technologies required for human spaceflight have already been validated through various tests — Space Capsule Recovery Experiment, Crew Module Atmospheric Re-Entry Experiment and Pad Abort Test.

Pad Abort Test

  • Its purpose was safely parachute future astronauts down in case their space vehicle develops snags while taking off. In July 2018, ISRO successfully conducted this test.
  • ISRO demonstrated the flight of a crew module and its re-entry in 2014.

Crew Escape System

  • This is a crucial safety technology, involving an emergency escape mechanism for the astronauts in case of a faulty launch.
  • The mechanism ensures the crew module gets an advance warning of anything going wrong with the rocket, and pulls it away to a safe distance, after which it can be landed either on sea or on land with the help of attached parachutes.
  • Only in July 2018, ISRO completed the first successful flight of the crew escape system. 

Life support

  • The Environmental Control & Life Support System (ECLSS) is meant to ensure that conditions inside the crew module are suitable for humans to live comfortably.
  • The inside of the crew module is a twin-walled sealed structure that will recreate Earth-like conditions for the astronauts. It would be designed to carry two or three astronauts. 

Would be only the Fourth Such Nation!

  • When it achieves the mission, India would be the fourth nation to circle Earth after the Soviets, the Americans and the Chinese.
  • In 1984, India’s first astronaut Wing Commander (retd.) Rakesh Sharma orbited Earth as part of a Soviet mission.
  • ISRO revealed the first germ of an HSP in November 2004 and got incremental funds for supporting projects over the next few years.
  • It could not go ahead mainly because the GSLV MarkIII vehicle was not ready until last year.

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