4 Indian astronauts are training in Russia for future spaceflights

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Four Indian astronauts continue to train at Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow as prospective space travelers for India’s crewed Gaganyaan project.

The Gaganyaan program aims to launch an astronaut before the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, in 2022, according to previous statements from the nation’s space agency, the  Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

According to Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, the four Indian astronauts “are in good health and are determined to continue their training.” The trainees arrived in February and are scheduled to complete their stay at the facility in early 2021.

Related: India unveils its own spacesuit design for 2022 astronaut flights

The training program for the foursome has encompassed a broad range of skills necessary for spaceflight, according to the Roscosmos statement, including learning Russian and studying every aspect of the Soyuz vehicle. The Indian astronauts have also completed a variety of simulations mimicking different ways astronauts can return to Earth, including landing on the steppes, in wooded or marshy areas and splashing down in bodies of water.

The Indian astronaut trainees have also undergone short-term weightlessness simulations and practiced being air-lifted from a landing site in a helicopter.Still to come in the Indian astronauts’ training will be centrifuge simulations of G-forces and stints in a pressure chamber, each of which will teach their bodies what to expect from spaceflight.

India has been pressing forward with its human spaceflight program despite budgetary constraints, although the coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on schedule.

To date, two Indian astronauts have flown to space, but only on the Russian Soyuz capsule and U.S. space shuttle, rather than on an Indian vehicle, which is a stipulation of the Gaganyaan program.

Russia and India signed the contract for the training the four astronauts are currently completing in June 2019. The first crewed Gaganyaan mission will carry up to three astronauts on a seven-day mission, according to ISRO.

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