Gaganyaan news: IAM is going through the process of selecting Indian astronaut three decades after it selected Rakesh Sharma and Ravish Malhotra in 1982 and 1984 respectively for Russia's Soyuz T-11 mission.
With the help of Russian space experts, 12 IAF pilots were shortlisted to go for final training programme ahead of India’s first space flight. The pilots were selected from a group of 60 candidates who were part of a 45-day generic training programme for astronauts at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training centre in Russia’s Star City. So far, seven IAF pilots have already completed the training. The group of seven will now return to India where they will undergo rigorous training and will face stiff tests which will include a mission-specific training. Once the process is complete final selection of three astronauts for India’s proposed manned mission in 2022 will take place.
According to an IE report, the reason why many IAF pilots failed to clear the primary physical and medical hurdle was dental issue. IAF’s Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) experts revealed this in an annual conference of the Indian Society of Aerospace Medicine Fraternity.
IAM is going through the process of selecting Indian astronaut three decades after it selected Rakesh Sharma and Ravish Malhotra in 1982 and 1984 respectively for Russia’s Soyuz T-11 mission. According to the IE report quoting IAM expert, 16 pilots were selected by IAM from a group of 24 test pilots. IAM ignored minor physical conditions in that process but the Russian team of experts, which was vastly experienced in aerospace medicines and had collectively spent 560 days in space, cracked the whip on candidates with dental issues. Talking to IE Group Captain MS Nataraj, the top IAM selection officer for the astronauts said that they prepared 16 dossiers and presented them to a team of Russian experts led by a top aviation specialist. Only 16 successfully cleared our collective selection process. What they thought as minor turned out to be the main difference. Dental issues can create a lot of problems in space. Russian experts were made sure that there are no dental issues, they were very particular about it.
According to the experts at ESA, the Europian Space Agency, for astronauts having sound dental health is very important because during the lift-off the acceleration and vibrations are very strong and ill-fitting dental fittings could get displaced and fall as well. The change in atmospheric pressure can trigger dental pain if cavities are present. It is reported that one Russian astronaut Yuri Romenenko endured unbearable dental pain as commander of Salyut 6 mission in 1978.
Other than dental issues minor hearing problems and shortcomings in sight were also considered. Since Russian experts have not cleared nine out of the first 16, a new group of 36 test pilot was picked by IAF to fill remaining slots for the final 12 and undergo advanced training for next two years. After inputs from Russians, IAM was more particular in picking test pilots and from the new group, Russians cleared as many as 12 from which IAM shortlisted five.