Only 11 months or so to go till the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) indigenous spaceflight mission Gaganyaan takes off for a full test flight. India is preparing for its Yuri Gagarin moment with astronauts training for its first crewed space mission set for December 2021 where it will launch three astronauts in the Earth’s orbit for seven days to carry out scientific experiments and then come back.

Reportedly, the Indian Air Force (IAF) had selected ten test pilots to train at Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of the Russian Space Agency, among which three are to be shortlisted for the Gaganyaan flight. It is unlikely that any of them would be a woman, as the Indian armed forces don’t recruit women in the desired post. An ISRO Technical Unit is also to be set up in Moscow to develop key technologies to life support systems required by the forthcoming missions. The spacesuits however, would be indigenously manufactured by DEBEL, an Indian defence laboratory under the DRDO, located in Bangalore.

Kicking off the 'Citizen Familiarisation Program' at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) campus during Space Week 2019 (October 4-10), Director S Somanath shared that the mission to low-Earth orbit 300 to 400 kilometres from the surface would also have an effective Crew Escape System. Reportedly, this system is an emergency escape measure that allows astronauts to quickly put themselves and the crew module, a good distance away from the rocket, if the launch needs to be aborted at any stage.

Though seven days of orbital flight is not enough time for major physiological changes like bone weakness or muscle loss to occur, astronauts will have to adapt to changing gravitational acceleration loads during the mission. This requires training in a centrifuge that simulates G-forces by spinning rapidly.

As the Gaganyaan mission is primarily a technology demonstrator, training for Indian astronauts will only last for two years, opposed to the four-year-period otherwise, so as to meet the launch deadline. The GSLV Mk-III is ISRO’s launch vehicle of choice and will carry the 7,800 kg Gaganyaan craft into the low-Earth orbit.