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|Year : 2019 | Volume
| Issue : 8 | Page : 169
Human spaceflight from one's own soil
Principal, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Indian Air Force, Bangalore, Karnataka, India
|Date of Web Publication||24-May-2019|
Dr. Anupam Agarwal
Agarwal, VSM, Principal, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Indian Air Force, Bangalore, Karnataka
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Agarwal A. Human spaceflight from one's own soil. Neurol India 2019;67, Suppl S2:169
On 15th of August 2018, the Prime Minister announced from the ramparts of the Red Fort that by August 2022, an Indian would carry the Indian tricolour to space from the Indian soil. This one-line statement has ramifications far beyond what the common man can see, or I daresay, even imagine. In order to understand the meaning of this statement, we need to understand the implications of Human Spaceflight from one's own soil.
So far, 536 astronauts from 40 different countries, including Sqn. Ldr. Rakesh Sharma of India, have gone to space. However, only three nations have launched a human from their own soil into space, namely, USSR (later Russia), USA and China. India is attempting to be the fourth such nation of the world. Equally important, since the termination of the Shuttle program in 2011, USA has also had no manned launches. Many advanced, powerful and rich nations like the European Union, Iran and Japan have, in the past, attempted manned space programs and have been unable to conduct them successfully.
Human spaceflight is the pinnacle of prowess in science and technology. Sustenance of life in space requires an absolute synergy between life sciences, medicine, technology, industry and design. Thus, for the launch of a successful spaceflight, a 'critical mass' of technology, industry, aerospace medicine and scientific knowhow has to be reached. It is my belief that we have now arrived at this critical mass.
Rocket technology has been developing steadily for the past three decades but has taken a giant leap with the development of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV-III). This is now being human rated. The quality of engineering taking place in the country has grown by leaps and bounds and is at par with any country in the world. The fillip to the aircraft industry in the past few years has engendered the culture of high-redundancy and fail-safe technologies.
In keeping with the above, Aerospace Medicine (Ae Med) has also grown and matured in the country. The Indian Society of Aerospace Medicine (ISAM) is one of the oldest Ae Med societies in the world, that was established in 1958. The Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) at Bangalore, was established in 1958 and is the only institute of its kind in South-East Asia. Indian Ae Med specialists have developed the expertise in designing cockpits and have done so for various aircrafts like the advanced light helicopter (ALH), light combat aircraft (LCH), light utility helicopter (LUH), light combat aircraft (LCA) and Hindustan jet trainer-36 (HJT-36) with high redundancy and fail-safe technologies. These aircraft are in operational use in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and are being exported to various countries. The human engineering designs of these aircraft are some of the best in the world, enabling them to safely operate in the toughest conditions on earth. This expertise will be used in human engineering design of the Gaganyaan capsule. The state-of-the-art facilities at the IAM are geared to select and train the Gagannauts of tomorrow.
You may be aware that some of the most brilliant 'medical' technologies of today like the computed tomographic scan, gas/liquid chromatography and mass spectroscopy, high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, etc., are all 'spinoffs' from space technology. Even today, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), USA, produces 50-70 spinoffs per year. We are now participating in similar research. Space research will pave the way for pathbreaking Indian technology, an entity that is largely unknown to us so far. Today, even our best clinical specialists learn about various technologies from abroad and practice or adopt them for India. This could change in the next few years. Human spaceflight has had this effect in all countries involved in it, due to the sheer magnitude and complexity it entails. It is a national effort, with all citizens of India participating equally and passionately in it, if it is to become successful. On the other hand, failure is not an option. The world is watching…