probes in exploring our celestial neighbours to see if those environments are fit for human habitation and then begin our manned space programme, or, do we get started now that we have the tech capability to do so—given the fact that India has not yet leveraged the near-earth environment for science, for which manned flights are necessary? I urge naysayers to think about the science being performed on the International Space Station (ISS).
Isro will soon commence the selection process for the three astronauts for Gaganyaan, which would also include a woman. How do you view the representation of women in space exploration back then and has it changed over the years? During the early days, the US and erstwhile Soviet Union were busy notching up “firsts” and in that scheme of things, the “first female in space” was a celebra- tory event. Now that considerable scientific research activity is being conducted by humans in the near-earth orbit, we find female researchers forming a part of the workforce depending on the kind of research being carried out at a given point of time. That a woman would be a part of the first Gaganyaan mission is hypothetical right now. The selection committee will choose the most professionally suited crew as demanded by the mission’s objectives.
Space exploration has taken a tremendous technological leap. India as a developing nation has been recognized globally for how it has economized its missions, which have been comparatively low-cost compared with other countries. How do you view this strategy in light of space missions globally?
I would say that in this respect we are ahead of the game. With space exploration picking up, low-cost access to space will be required and I believe that Isro will be the go-to agency that would provide value for this kind of activity.
The astronaut selection and training process for such missions is considered to be extremely rigorous. What was the most challenging part of your training? What are the key parameters space organizations consider while selecting astronauts for such missions?
(above, from left) Members of the Soviet-indian space crew, Gennady Strekalov, Rakesh Sharma and Yury Malyshev, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre; and the ‘Soyuz T-11’s’ dubbing and primary crew members meet the then Indian defence minister Ramaswamy Venkataraman.
Cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma in gear.