The country’s ambitious first manned space flight, Gaganyaan, will see ISRO partnering with the Institute of Aerospace Medicine, a premier institute of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in Bengaluru, to develop a life-support system for survival in space.
Air Marshal Rajvir Singh, Director General Medical Services (Air Force), who was in Pune for the 67th annual Armed Forces Medical Conference and the 57th Armed Forces Medical Research Committee meeting at the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), said that discussions were under way and details would be finalised soon on providing full-fledged medical support for the human-in-space programme.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that India’s first human space flight, to be launched before its 75th Independence Day, could be led by a man or even a woman. While the process of finalising those who will be part of the mission is under way at the IAF, authorities at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine are gearing up for the challenge of providing life-support systems.
Air Marshal Singh said that India will soon be joining a very select club of nations launching a human-in-space programme. India is likely to be the fourth country to do so. “The challenge of providing life support in space is enormous, technical and complex and clearly the Institute of Aerospace Medicine at Bengaluru is best suited for the job owing to their expertise and technical knowledge in aerospace medicine,” Air Marshal Singh said.
Lt Gen Bipin Puri, Director General Armed Forces Medical Services, stressed that it was an indigenous effort and providing life support for humans in space was intricate. “Detailed planning will be required and meetings and several training rounds on simulators will have to be performed to make the person space worthy,” Lt Gen Puri said.
When asked about IAF fighter pilots using authorised pills to boost alertness levels and fight sleep deprivation during long-range sorties, Air Marshal Singh said that the forces had developed a programme to enhance the time that a pilot can spend in the cockpit. “These are medicines used by air force pilots in other countries — the Go pills can be given to a pilot and help in staying alert during long operations/missions. The outcome has been successful and shown positive results. However, the pills are not meant for routine use and have to be given under the supervision of aviation medicine specialists,” Air Marshal Singh added.
MD in marine medicine Surg Vice Admiral Anup Banerjee, Director General Medical Services (Navy), said for the first time a unique MD programme in marine medicine will be introduced. The undersea environment has brought new health hazards and medical officers would require specialised knowledge to tackle the problems. While so far a diploma programme is under way in marine medicine, consistent efforts by the armed forces have now obtained recognition for the MD course in medicine from the Medical Council of India and Maharashtra University of Health Sciences.
Lt Gen Puri said that India was on the verge of becoming a blue water navy (a maritime force capable of operating globally across the deep waters of open oceans). There are different challenges, he said, adding that a need was felt for introducing such a course. The course will be run at INS Ashvini.