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India's Dream Takes Flight! Four IAF Pilots Chosen for Historic 2024 Moon Mission

Following the remarkable success of the Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission, ISRO is accelerating its efforts to send Indian astronauts to the moon by 2040, according to Chairman S. Somanath. Four test pilots from the Indian Air Force have been chosen as Astronaut-Designates for this mission.

In an exclusive article for the Manorama Yearbook 2024, Somanath revealed that ISRO's Gaganyaan program aims to launch 2 to 3 Indian astronauts into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for a duration of up to three days before safely returning them to a designated site in Indian waters. The selected astronauts are currently undergoing mission-specific training at the Astronaut Training Facility (ATF) in Bengaluru.

The Gaganyaan program involves the development of critical technologies, including a human-rated launch vehicle (HLVM3), an Orbital Module with a Crew Module (CM) and Service Module (SM), and life support systems. Prior to the manned mission, two identical uncrewed missions (G1 & G2) will be conducted, along with Integrated Air Drop Test, Pad Abort Test, and Test Vehicle flights.

The Crew Module (CM) is designed as a habitable space with an Earth-like environment for the crew, equipped with safety features such as a Crew Escape System (CES) for emergencies. The success of the Test Vehicle (TV-D1) flight on October 21, 2023, demonstrated the Crew Escape System's in-flight abort capability, Crew Module separation, and safe recovery from the Bay of Bengal by the Indian Navy.

In addition to the Gaganyaan program, Somanath highlighted ISRO's Aditya L1 solar exploratory mission, launched on September 2. Aditya L1 aims to study the sun from Lagrange Point 1, showcasing India's expertise in both lunar and solar research. Laden with seven indigenously developed scientific payloads, the spacecraft is on its way to Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 1(L1) and is expected to enter a Halo orbit in January 2024.

Somanath emphasized the significance of the Chandrayaan-3 mission's success, leading to the declaration of August 23 as 'National Space Day in India' by the Prime Minister. The mission provided valuable lunar data, revealing the presence of various elements in lunar soil.

In addition to ongoing missions, ISRO is actively working on transformative initiatives such as the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) program, X-ray astronomy mission XPOSAT, Space Docking Experiment (SPADEX), and the development of 'LOX methane' engines. These endeavors, along with ambitious goals set by the Prime Minister, including the commissioning of the 'Bharatiya Antariksha Station' (Indian Space Station) by 2035, highlight India's growing prominence in space exploration. Somanath concluded that with each mission and discovery, ISRO continues to solidify its position on the global stage, instilling national pride and advancing India's technological achievements.

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