India gears up for human space flight mission

The space programme, according to the estimated timeline, is scheduled for 2015-16, but IAM has already upgraded three key laboratories, including its thermal chamber simulator and micro-gravity simulator labs.

These are part of the process to screen and select astronauts for the mission when they are chosen. The institute has already received a grant from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which will eventually execute the programme.

The Bangalore-based institute will subject the prospective astronauts to physical examinations like dental, neurological, ophthalmologic, psychological, radiographic, cardiac and ENT tests.

As part of the upgraded facility, the institute, which has the credit of having trained astronauts like Rakesh Sharma, has procured a thermal chamber, which simulates extreme temperatures that an astronaut could be subjected to in space.

Group Captain D K Dubey, one of the officers, said: “The spacecraft will have the ability to do about 16 revolutions of the Earth in one day, which would mean that it will move away from and close to the sun several times. The temperatures could touch -60 degrees or 60 degrees and we are equipped to train astronauts for both.”

Micro-gravity simulator

The micro-gravity simulator, resembling a bathtub, is highly sophisticated with thermal protection and will simulate near micro-gravity situation that the astronauts will be trained to deal with.

While showing the simulator, Dubey said: “This training can go on for hours or even days with the trainee required to perform all activities in the simulator. He will have to eat, read, pass urine and so on, all in this facility until the training is complete.”

Stating that the trainee will be watched/observed throughout, using the cameras installed,  he said a television and other amenities will be provided in the room to keep him going.

Training for astronauts

The training becomes very vital, as on earth, the blood in the body generally flows downwards with the heart having to pump it, Dubey said, adding: “In space, the blood begins to travel upwards, which puts pressure on the heart and eventually result in the blood volume shrinking. This training will teach astronauts to manage with such low volumes.”

Added to this, a lab for low body negative pressure, which is a resultant of the environment in the space, needs to be corrected, officers said.

“Once the training begins, we will bring the astronaut’s pressure back to 1-G just so that he learns how to do that when she/he returns to the Earth’s orbit,” Dubey said.

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