The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is poised for an ambitious lunar endeavour, setting its sights on dispatching Indian astronauts to the Moon by the visionary year of 2040, as declared by Chairman S Somanath. Charting the course for the next frontier in space exploration, ISRO unveils the Gaganyaan program, an audacious plan to propel a crew of 2 to 3 Indian astronauts into the celestial theatre of Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
Their cosmic odyssey is envisioned to span up to three awe-inspiring days, culminating in a secure return to a predesignated site in the vast expanse of Indian waters. Somanath detailed this cosmic vision in a compelling article for the Manorama Yearbook 2024.
From the ranks of the Indian Air Force, four intrepid test pilots have been anointed as “Astronaut-Designates” for the Gaganyaan mission. Currently undergoing specialized training at the Astronaut Training Facility in Bengaluru, these aviators are poised to etch their names in the annals of space exploration.
The inaugural Gaganyaan mission will be a crucible of cutting-edge technologies, scrutinizing the resilience of the human-rated LVM3 launch vehicle, the orbital ballet of the Crew Module and Service Module encapsulated within the Orbital Module, and an array of life support systems. Preceding the historic crewed mission, the spacefaring endeavour will conduct two parallel uncrewed missions, in addition to rigorous Air Drop Tests, Pad Abort Tests, and Test Vehicle flights.
The recent milestone achievement, the TV-D1 mission on October 21, 2023, showcased the mettle of the Crew Escape System. The unpressurized incarnation of the Crew Module gracefully detached from the launch vehicle, free-falling into the Bay of Bengal, where the Indian Navy deftly retrieved it.
Somanath underscores the pivotal role of this test flight as a prerequisite for the imminent missions, projecting a potential launch of the crewed Gaganyaan mission in the celestial dance of 2025. The cosmic tapestry of India’s space odyssey continues to unfold, weaving a narrative of bold exploration and scientific prowess.