Indians in space: 12 of 60 IAF test pilots in shortlist, many out due to dental defects

An IAF test pilot undergoes a medical test as part of the cosmonaut-selection process. (Indian Air Force)

BAD TEETH are not good for astronauts. This is one of the key lessons that experts from IAF’s Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) learnt over the last three months during the recruitment of 12 air force test pilots as Gatcans or Gaganaut candidates for Gaganyaan, India’s first human space mission.

The pilots, who were selected from a field of 60 with the help of Russian experts, have undergone generic training as astronauts at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Russia’s Star City over the last 45 days — seven have completed the stint so far.

The group is set to return to India for strenuous training and tests, including mission-specific training, that will lead to the final selection of three astronauts for the proposed launch by 2022.

One of the primary physical and medical conditions that ruled out a majority of candidates during the first level of screening in July and August was dental problems, IAM experts said this week at the annual conference of the Indian Society of Aerospace Medicine fraternity.

The IAM is finding its way back to the rigour of selecting candidates for space missions

after over three decades, following the selection of cosmonauts Rakesh Sharma and Ravish Malhotra in 1982 for the 1984 Russian Soyuz T-11 mission.

The IAM team initially shortlisted a group of 16 from 24 test pilots sent by the IAF for…

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