India’s Gaganyaan mission to put a man on Moon gets derailed due to Coronavirus

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ISRO’s plan to land first Indian through Gaganyaan on Moon gets postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic

Gaganyaan is an Indian crewed orbital spacecraft intended to be the formative spacecraft of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme. The spacecraft is being designed to carry three people, and a planned upgraded version will be equipped with rendezvous and docking capability. In its maiden crewed mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s largely autonomous 3.7-tonne (8,200 lb) capsule will orbit the Earth at 400 km (250 mi) altitude for up to seven days with a two or three-person crew on board. The crewed vehicle is planned to be launched on ISRO’s GSLV Mk III in December 2021.

To run the Gaganyaan India has sent 4 Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots to Russia for 11 months of advanced training. The Training of Gaganyaan Human Mission has been put on hold due to lockdown due to the global pandemic of COVID-19.

Crew training and Gaganyaan’s systems testing are the two most critical activities listed for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) this year. This was announced by the ISRO chairman K Sivan during a media interaction earlier this year.

The mission is expected to be launched in 2022 from India and is likely to carry these astronauts into low earth orbit in Space. “These pilots were expected to come back end of the year and get on with the module-specific training in India. All this has now been pushed back, as the Russia leg of the training will only finish next year,” explained a top officer who wished to remain anonymous.

“Russia’s Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) located at Star City, about 30km from Moscow has been regularly training crew for more than fifty years. Not only the Russian cosmonauts, but astronauts from various other countries, including the USA also go there for training,” Milind Kulshreshtha, C4I expert.

ISRO’s Human Spaceflight Centre (HSFC) is involved in the mission planning, Systems Engineering for human survival in space, up to the stage of crew selection and training. In the Gaganyaan mission, the first of three flights was scheduled within a year, initial two flights to be unmanned but with humanoids onboard.

Effects of Lockdown on ISRO

The Lockdown has forced even ISRO scientists to work from home and work through video conferencing. However, some scientists are out to work on projects following strict COVID-19 Social Distancing Protocols. The R&D and manufacturing are not progressing and this is expected to have an impact on mission plans for the first Gaganyaan launch with a Humanoid.

So what does the Advanced Training of IAF consists:

Milind Kulshreshtha, C4I expert says, “The Russian Training Centre has tailor-made specialized equipment and gadgets to ensure specific mission-related training. This involves simulating the launch, space flight, and reentry procedure, with such technology not yet developed in India.”

  • Astro-navigation Training
  • Weightlessness Training
  •  Gravitational Centrifuge
  •  Hydro Complex
  •  Virtual Main Control Centre

The main focus of the government is on the funding of fight against COVID-19 pandemic, all strategic projects are likely to have budget restrictions. The Ministry of Defence has already announced a hold on capital procurements at least for this quarter and future capital procurements too are under a shadow for now.

In the same way, ISRO projects which are under strategic category too shall face a slowdown, not only due to pandemic restriction in work process flow but due to budget constraints in the future.

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