Gaganyaan voyage: Four IAF officers set to create history

In the centuries to come human habitation will no longer be confined to the planet earth. They will travel vast distances and explore new planets. In this venture India will not be lagging behind and its ambitious Gaganyaan project is a part of a grand scheme that may one day take Indians far away into the limitless reaches of outer space.

In 1984 Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma of the Indian Air Force flew aboard the Soviet craft Soyuz T-11 as part of the Soviet Interkosmos programme. He became the first Indian citizen to travel into space. But now India seeks to end the practice of having an arrangement with other nations to send our own astronauts into space.

This time the Gaganyaan project will take three men into space. Four have been selected for the task but obviously one man will be kept in reserve. As of now all four are being trained for the job.

MS Education Academy

The selected officers all belong to the Indian Air Force. They are Prashanth Balakrishnan Nair, Ajit Krishnan and Angad Pratap all of whom hold the rank of Group Captain and Shubhanshu Shukla who is a Wing Commander. Obviously it is a great honour for each of them that they were picked to go on this historic mission. These officers are highly skilled and extremely fit both mentally and physically.

P.B.Nair was a class topper

Group Captain Prashanth Balakrishnan Nair was born in Palakkad in Kerala. He was studying engineering before he decided to join the National Defence Academy where he became an outstanding cadet. Academically he was a topper every time. In 2019 Nair was picked up for the astronaut selection process by the Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM). Again he did extremely well in all the parameters and was shortlisted in the final four by IAM and ISRO.

In 2020, he was sent to Russia for basic training with three other selected officers. This basic training was completed in 2021. All four then returned to India and attended training at the Astronaut Training Facility in Bengaluru.

But for his entire tough and efficient exterior, there is also a funny side to Nair’s personality. He carries the nickname of Papa.

How did this happen?

When he was a cadet an officer asked him his name. He replied: “Flight Cadet P.B. Nair Sir.”  The officer did not hear him clearly so he asked Nair to repeat his initials. In true Air Force style, Nair elaborated: “Papa Bravo Nair Sir.” Immediately his batch mates and even his teachers were charmed by that reply. From that day his nickname became Papa.

Ajit Krishnan always finds a solution

Group Captain Ajit Krishnan was born in Chennai. He is known to be a great problem solver. All the pilots are required to have the ability to think fast and accurately. Any mistake will endanger the entire mission and the lives of all the crew members so Krishnan too is adept at finding solutions in difficult and stressful situations.

Angad Pratap is highly motivated

Group Captain Angad Pratap hails from Prayagraj which was known as Allahabad when he was born 41 years ago. His alma mater too was the NDA which has produced some of the best, most talented and highly motivated officers of the Indian armed forces. Like the others, Angad Pratap is also a Test pilot in the Air Force. Pratap and his comrades have the mental ability and the physical fitness to withstand tremendous stress without caving in.

Shukla is a flying ace

The fourth member of the team is Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla who is from Lucknow. While studying at the City Montessori School he developed a keen desire to serve in the armed forces. After joining the Air Force he became an expert at flying different types of aircrafts and logged more than 2000 flying hours.

When the Gaganyaan mission was announced Shukla felt that he must join this programme and applied without a second thought.

Shukla is called Gunjan at home and is the proud father of a four year old boy. According to his elder sister Suchi Shukla, Gunjan is the most disciplined man she has seen. His neighbours who have known him from his childhood are overjoyed. They consider him to be a national hero and are praying for his success.

According to the well known astronomer, scientist and Harvard professor, the late Carl Sagan, humankind has lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. Now humans must set sail for the stars. India has made a beginning and how far the nation will go remains to be seen. Right now India’s fearless foursome will spearhead the nation’s maiden low earth orbit voyage as part of the Gaganyaan mission.

Back to top button