Prime Minister Modi awards astronaut wings to four Indian Air Force officers
In another step towards propelling India into the forefront of space exploration, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the names of four astronauts for the Gaganyaan Space Mission during his visit to the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday (February 27, 2024).
The much-awaited announcement introduces Indian Air Force Group Captains Prashanth Balakrishnan Nair, Ajit Krishnan and Angad Pratap, & Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla as the astronaut-designates of India's maiden crewed spaceflight to a low-Earth orbit. Their selection heralds a new era for India, aiming to join the league of nations capable of independent human space travel.
In a ceremonial gesture, Prime Minister Modi awarded astronaut wings to these elite Indian Air Force officers, symbolizing their rigorous preparation across global and national training facilities, including Russia and ISRO's own centres.
"Today, we celebrate not just four individuals, but four beacons of hope, carrying the dreams of 1.4 billion Indians into the cosmos," Prime Minister Modi remarked. "An Indian journeying to space is not a repeat of history but a leap into a future where India commands its own time, space, and technology in the universe," added Prime Minister Modi, who also reviewed the progress of the Gaganyaan Mission.
The Prime Minister's vision for India's space exploration stretches beyond the imminent Gaganyaan Mission. He envisages India evolving into a pivotal hub for global space commerce within the next decade. With lunar and Martian missions on the horizon, and a space station project by 2030, India's ambitions sky-rocket towards pioneering achievements in space science and exploration.
The announcement was part of a broader narrative of India's advancing space frontier, marked by the inauguration of significant projects amounting to Rs 1800 crore. This includes the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, the Semi-cryogenic Integrated Engine and Stage Test Facility (SIET) in Tamil Nadu, and the Trisonic Wind Tunnel at VSSC.
This visit, marking Modi as the first Prime Minister to grace VSSC since its inception, underscores the national commitment to space exploration.
The journey towards the Gaganyaan launch has been marked by critical achievements, including the successful test of the crew capsule in 2023 and the human rating of ISRO's CE20 cryogenic engine, which will power the Launch Vehicle Mark II (LVM3) into space. ISRO has sealed an ongoing commitment to ensure the highest standards of safety and reliability for its crew.
An example to India's resolve in mastering space technology is its initiative to indigenously develop the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), ensuring a habitable environment for astronauts in orbit. This endeavour reflects ISRO's capability to harness domestic expertise and resources, marking a lunge towards technological self-reliance.
The Gaganyaan Mission transcends technological achievement; it embodies India's aspiration to carve its niche in the global space community and inspire generations to dream big. This venture into space is not just a demonstration of India's growing prowess in space technology but also an inspiration for future scientists, engineers, and space enthusiasts.
As India prepares for the Gaganyaan Mission, it stands on the cusp of a new epoch in space exploration. This mission illustrates India’s technological fortitude and commits to playing a leading role in the global space arena. With its eyes set on the cosmos, the Gaganyaan Mission is ready to elevate India's status in space exploration, announcing a new era of innovation and discovery in the 21st century.