India recently introduced the four astronauts selected for its ambitious Gaganyaan mission, putting the country one step closer to sending humans to space. Gaganyaan, meaning “sky craft” in Hindi, will be India’s first crewed space mission, cementing its place among the elite club of nations having independent human spaceflight capability.

The four astronauts – Prashanth Nair, Ajit Krishnan, Angad Pratap, and Shubhanshu Shukla – were awarded “astronaut wings” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After months of intense training, these four Air Force officers will carry the hopes and dreams of over a billion Indians on the Gaganyaan space capsule.

4 astronaut selected for India's gaganyaan
4 astronauts were selected for India’s Gaganyaan.

Gaganyaan – A Giant Leap for India’s Space Program

At an estimated cost of ₹90 billion ($1.1 billion), Gaganyaan is the most ambitious project ever undertaken by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It involves launching a space capsule with astronauts on board into low earth orbit, keeping it there for several days, and safely bringing it back to earth via an ocean landing.

If successful, India will become only the fourth country after the US, Russia, and China to have independent human space flight capability. The mission is a huge technological challenge for ISRO, requiring major innovations in launch systems, crew modules, crew escape systems, and reliable life support systems.

Gaganyaan takes flight.

The Four Space Pioneers Creating History

Lt. Colonel Prashanth Nair is from Thiruvananthapuram, while the other three astronauts hail from Karnataka. All four are accomplished Indian Air Force test pilots who rose to the peak of their profession before being handpicked for the intense astronaut training program.

Besides their flying skills, they were selected based on their psychological resilience, ability to cope with stressful situations, and capacity for teamwork in confined spaces over long durations. Their identities were kept secret until recently to give them adequate time to concentrate on the grueling training modules.

Over the last two years, the Gaganyaan astronauts have undergone extensive physical, survival, and technical training in India and Russia to prepare for every possible emergency. Now fully mission-ready, these four driven individuals promise to uplift India’s global technological image when they finally blast off into the history books aboard the Gaganyaan capsule.

Gaganyaan Launch – Countdown Begins

The first test flight of the Gaganyaan spacecraft without crew is planned for mid-2024, which will validate all key technologies for human space travel. The second test flight is scheduled later that year before the manned mission ultimately takes off.

ISRO has already completed multiple tests for the human-rated GSLV Mk III rocket that will power Gaganyaan. With the astronauts now introduced and launch preparations gaining speed, India’s tryst with human spaceflight draws tantalizingly close.

When Prashanth, Ajit, Angad, and Shubhanshu embark on that epic voyage into the unknown, a nation of 1.4 billion people will soar into the heavens with them on the wings of Gaganyaan, realizing an impossible dream.

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