OdishaPlus Bureau

Odia IAF pilot Wing Commander Nikhil Rath has made the nation proud by getting selected as one among the four astronauts selected for Gaganyaan, India’s first manned mission to space in 2022.

The Balangir native Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot has recently completed his first phase training in crew actions at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Russia. On February 10, GCTC started training of the four Indian cosmonauts.

According to Russian Space Corporation Roscosmos, the four cosmonauts have completed training on crew actions in all weather and all terrain modules. They were trained on landing on wooded and marshy areas in winter (February), on the water surface (June) and in the steppe in summer (July) in complete adherence to the COVID-19 safety protocols.

The astronauts-elect have also passed training in short-term weightlessness mode aboard the IL-76MDK special laboratory aircraft and were also trained to lift aboard a helicopter while evacuating from the descent module landing point, last month.

According to the statement released by Roscosmos, “They are in good health and determined to continue their training. Their training in a centrifuge and hyperbaric chamber to prepare their organisms for sustaining spaceflight factors, such as G-force, hypoxia and pressure drops, will be started soon. All training modules will be completed in the first quarter, next year.”

The four cosmonauts were selected from the 25 shortlisted pilots for undergoing training for one year the ambitious Gaganyaan space mission by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Nikhil, will be among the three astronauts to go to space for a seven-day mission. The ₹10,000 crore Gaganyaan, which was supposed to be launched next year, is now expected to be launched in 2022, the year of the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence. It was delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Son of Ashok Rath, a Balangir-based senior lawyer, Nikhil had joined IAF in 2003. He is the first Odia pilot to become a part of the space mission.