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ISRO wants to send civilian scientists, doctors to space to research microgravity

New Delhi: India’s first attempt to send human beings to space – the ambitious Gaganyaan mission – will be the first of many such crewed missions to space. The Indian Space Research Organisation is now drawing up a new criteria to recruit astronauts from outside the defence staff for its future missions.

According to Imtiaz Ali Khan, director of ISRO’s Directorate of Human Spaceflight Programme, the government has given ISRO the approval for a sustained human spaceflight programme.

Khan was speaking at the ‘Be Inspired: Festival of Ideas’ held at the India International Centre in New Delhi Sunday.

“In follow-up missions, there will be women, there will be civilians from non-defence backgrounds, there will be doctors and scientists flying out to space,” Khan said.

Khan added that other countries with space programmes are already doing this.

“If you see examples from other human space flight programmes, the people who fly are very diverse. If you notice, even age is not a very strict criterion today—people as old as 70 years old also go to space,” he added.

Khan said the sustained crewed missions to space open up opportunities to study previously untapped fields of science in India — such as space chemistry and biology.

He noted that there are some kinds of drugs that can be perfected in microgravity environments.

“The astronauts will not only conduct experiments in space but will be subjects (of experiments) themselves,” said Khan.

A sustained crewed mission will help researchers study the effects of microgravity on the human body, and subsequently help develop therapies that can be used to treat astronauts in the future who go on long-term, deep space missions.

“We need to develop new technologies like inflatable habitats and docking capsules. We are also having discussions with other space agencies to learn if we can dock to the existing space station,” Khan added.

He noted that the first uncrewed test mission is slated for January next year.

The Gaganyaan mission will carry two to three astronauts aboard a space capsule some 400 kilometres above the Earth’s surface. The capsule will stay in space for three days – during which the astronauts will carry out a set of planned experiments.

Currently, a team in DRDO is working on developing food for the astronauts.

ISRO has also decided that the crew will not be referred to as ‘astronauts’. They will be given a new moniker that suits Indian sensibilities.

(Edited by Theres Sudeep)

Source: The Print

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