Four ace pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were selected for India's maiden manned mission Gaganyaan around the earth's orbit by 2022, a top space official said on Wednesday.
"We have selected 4 IAF pilots for our first manned space mission in 2021-22. Three of them will go into space to orbit around the earth for a week and conduct experiments in micro-gravity and bio-science," state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K. Sivan told reporters in Bengaluru but did not reveal their identities or names.
The quartet will undergo training in Russia from the third week of this month for becoming the first Indian crew to go into space from native soil.
"The four pilots have undergone medical tests at the Indian Aviation Medicine of the IAF in Bengaluru and in Russia at the space agency which will train them in all aspects of a manned mission in outer space," said Sivan.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi hinted in his Independence address on August 15, 2018, from the Red Fort that three Indians, including a woman, would be sent into space, Sivan said that the crew would be all men as all the four selected are males.
Then IAF test pilot Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma was the first Indian to have gone into space as a cosmonaut aboard Soyuz-T from Russia on April 2, 1984, when he was 35 years old.
In the run-up to the ambitious manned mission, the space agency will launch 2-3 unmanned missions in 2020 and 2021 with humanoids to test the human rating of the propulsion modules, including the crew module and the escape system in the event of any emergency in the spacecraft.