Explainer:Selection of Astronauts for Gaganyaan Mission

  Feb 28, 2024

Explainer:Selection of Astronauts for Gaganyaan Mission

Why No Woman Among 4 Pilots Chosen For Gaganyaan Mission?

The recent announcement of the four Air Force pilots selected for India’s ambitious Gaganyaan mission has sparked questions about the absence of women in the crew. The chosen astronauts are Group Captains Prasanth Balakrishnan Nair, Ajit Krishnan, Angad Pratap, and Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla. Given the iconic status of female astronauts like Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams, the question arises:

why were no women selected for this mission?

Selection Criteria Based on Test Pilot Pool

The primary reason lies in the selection criteria. Historically, astronauts for maiden missions globally are chosen from a pool of test pilots. Test pilots are selected for their exceptional flying skills and ability to remain composed in emergencies, making them the prime candidates for space missions. At the time of selection for the Gaganyaan mission, India did not have any woman test pilots, which directly influenced the selection process.

Future Opportunities for Women Astronauts

ISRO Chairman S Somanath and Dr. Unnikrishnan Nair, Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, have both emphasized that women will have opportunities in future missions. Somanath highlighted the eventual need for mission specialists, where women could be accommodated as astronauts. Nair reinforced the sentiment, stating ISRO’s gender-agnostic approach, focusing solely on talent.

Upcoming Missions and Training

Despite the current male-only crew, there is hope for Indian women to participate in space missions soon. Opportunities may arise from the NASA-ISRO human space mission to the International Space Station or future Gaganyaan missions. The selection of astronauts for these missions will likely reflect a broader pool of candidates, including skilled female fighter pilots, despite them not being test pilots.

Significance of Gaganyaan Mission

The Gaganyaan mission, costing around Rs 10,000 crore, is not only India’s most expensive scientific mission but also a milestone in its space exploration journey. Success in this mission would position India as the fourth country to send astronauts into space aboard an indigenously-made rocket, joining the ranks of the US, China, and Soviet Russia. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has highlighted this mission as a reflection of India’s growing stature in the global space community, emphasizing the broader implications for the nation’s technological and scientific advancements.


This explanation delves into the reasons behind the selection of an all-male crew for the Gaganyaan mission, addressing the criteria and future prospects for women astronauts in ISRO’s missions.


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