NEW DELHI: The COVID-19 pandemic has stalled the advanced training of four IAF personnel in Russia for the Gaganyaan mission.

Speaking to TOI, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K Sivan said, “Due to COVID-19 spread, Russia has put brakes on the 15-month training of our four astronaut candidates. However, we have kept enough cushion (buffer time) to meet the Gaganyaan launch deadline. The mission will be launched by 2022.”

The training of the four IAF personnel started at Yuri Gagarin Training Centre in February and was scheduled to be over in May next year. However, the pause in the training due to the spread of COVID-19 in Russia, as well may stretch the training period further. After the Russia training, the four Gagannauts probable will further be trained in India.

Back home, all launch activities of ISRO have come to a halt due to the virus outbreak. Sivan said only “skeletal staff are going to their respective centres to handle essential services like controlling satellites and data processing, software development, documentation and maintenance work. I sometimes go to my office when it’s very urgent. Otherwise, most of us are working from home and communicating through skype and other means. We are strictly obeying the government’s lockdown order and luckily there has been no positive case in ISRO till now.”

On resuming launch services, the ISRO chief said, “All decisions on resuming launch services will be taken only after the lockdown is over. Our activities depend on services and components from the industry and as most of the companies are not working, our work is also affected.” He said all big ISRO centres are also busy in the process of developing ventilators to help the government. “Our centres are also manufacturing hand sanitisers,” he said.