by Rashmi M

During the independence speech of 2018, the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi spoke about “Gaganyaan” India’s first manned space mission to send an Indian to space before 2022, carrying the tricolour flag of India. Despite the delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, significant progress was made by the end of 2023. On February 27, 2024, the names of the four Indian astronauts were announced by the Prime Minister  of India during his visit to review the progress of Gaganyaan mission at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC). The four chosen Indian Airforce pilots are Group Captain Prasanth Balakrishnan Nair, Group Captain Ajit Krishnan, Group Captain Angad Pratap and Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla. They were identified through an intensive selection process from a pool of talented test pilots. The entire event was filled with recalling and reminding the accomplishments of ISRO. The PM spoke on Chandrayaan 2 which became a learning experience for Chandrayaan 3, making India the first nation to land on the South pole of the Moon.  “They are not just four names or individuals rather they are the four ‘Shakti’(power) to carry the aspirations of 140 crore Indian into space”, the PM said.

We all know that individuals who travel to space, specifically from the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan are called astronauts (Greek words for “star” and “sailor”)whereas the Soviet and later Russian individuals travelling to space are known as cosmonauts (from the Greek words for “universe” and “sailor”). Chinese space travellers are commonly referred to as taikonauts (from the Chinese word for “space” and the Greek word for “sailor”). It seems that India has named its space travellers as “Vyomanauts”, where “Vyoman” in Sanskrit (ancient language of India) means “space”. These test pilots were trained  for 16 months at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Russia. They were also prepared for the mission at the Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) of ISRO. In the year 1984, Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma became the first Indian to travel to space and now after 40 years, India is going to space again, but this time through its own indigenously developed launching vehicle, LVM 3,  a reliable heavy lifter launcher of ISRO.

The Prime Minister underscored the relevance of Gaganyaan mission “as India is set to become the top 3 economy in the world, at the same time the country’s Gaganyaan mission is also going to take our space sector to a new height”. According to ISRO, the Gaganyaan mission aims to demonstrate for the first time the human space flight capability by launching a crew of 3 members into an orbit of 400 km for a three day mission and bring them back safely by landing them in the Indian sea waters. The PM also mentioned that the space economy of India will grow fivefold and become a global commercial hub in the coming years as the Indian government has recently liberalised the Space sector offering hundred percent FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) for various space activities. The PM also announced in his motivating speech that India will construct a Bharathiya Space Station by 2035 and even land Indian astronauts on Moon. The PM said “India aspires to become a developed nation by 2047 and the Indian space sector has a crucial role to play in it. ” It was highly inspiring to hear him speak about how the space sector of India was developing scientific temperament among the young generation as ISRO’s success encourages many children to become scientists in future.

As a social scientist and as a member oof ARIES project, I was moved by the words of the PM when he emphasised the ultimate role of space science. The PM said “space science is not just rocket science but it is also the biggest social science because society benefits the most from space technology.” He highlighted the diverse applications of space technology, ranging from agricultural uses to disaster warning systems.

During the event, the PM also inaugurated the three infrastructure projects of ISRO. The projects include the PSLV Integration Facility (PIF) at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota; the new ‘Semi-cryogenics Integrated Engine and Stage Test facility’ at ISRO Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri; and ‘Trisonic Wind Tunnel’ at VSSC, Thiruvananthapuram.

It seems that India is getting ready to fly high!!


  1. ANI News. (2024, February 27). Astronauts on Gaganyaan mission trained at same center in Russia where Rakesh Sharma underwent training,
  2. (2022, November 23). Gaganyaan.
  3. Ministry of Commerce and Industry. (2024, February 21). Cabinet approves amendment in the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy on Space Sector.
  4. Prime Minister’s Office. (2024, February 27). PM visits Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.


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