Screening process is well underway and I think it is being done very professionally: RKS Bhadauria

Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, on Thursday said that the screening process for the selection of crew for Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) proposed human space flight program Gaganyaan is being done professionally.

"The screening process is well underway and I think it is being done very professionally. And increasingly, the interaction with ISRO is leading to greater understanding of the screening itself," RKS Bhadauria said.

RKS Bhadauria was speaking at the inaugural session of the three-day 58th Indian annual conference of the Indian Society for Aerospace Medicine (ISAM) in Bengaluru, Karnataka.

Speaking about the role of Indian Air Force (IAF), RKS Bhadauria said the team coordinating with the Indian Space Research Organisation can look into the design aspect of the spacecraft such as the life support system, the design of the capsule and the contribution of this aviation medicine division to make sure ISRO achieves the challenge it has taken up.

Addressing the gathering, Air Marshal MS Butola, director-general medical services (Air), said, "The first level of the Gagan Yatri [astronauts] selection process and selection of IAF crew to undergo final astronaut selection and training in Russia."

MS Butola said the task assigned to them has been completed well in time.

According to an IAF officer, the Indian Air Force has shortlisted 12 persons as astronauts for the Gaganyaan project, of which seven have gone to Russia for training.

The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told PTI that the rest of the selected people would be sent once the batch of seven returns from Russia.

"As many as 12 have been selected for the Gaganyaan project in the first level. This is a screening process. Of these, four will be finally selected," the officer said.

"At the time of the launch of the project, one or two Gagan Yatris will be selected for the Mission," he added.

Gaganyaan is India's manned space mission which the ISRO aims to launch by December, 2021.

The project aims at sending the astronauts-to a lower orbit of the Earth and the spacecraft will have a capsule with adequate supply of oxygen and other essential material and facilities for the Gagan Yatris, the officer explained.

According to the officer, initially the cut-off age for the project was 30 but as the IAF pilots of that age group could not clear the test, the age bar was raised to 41.

Butola said the Aero medical consultancy of crew module design, life support system, on-board health monitoring system and flight support system are yet to be accomplished.

"Some of the most advanced countries in the world have attempted human space program and in the face of challenges they had to abandon it because they could not succeed," he explained.

The ambitious Gaganyaan mission was announced by Prime Minister Modi during his Independence Day speech in 2018.