New Delhi: An Indian astronaut, be it man or woman, will be off to a space odyssey by 2022 on board ‘Gaganyaan’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his Independence Day address earlier this month.

Modi said by the time India celebrated its 75th year of Independence in 2022, “and if possible even before, an Indian son or daughter" would undertake a manned space mission on board ‘Gaganyaan’ “carrying the national flag".

India could potentially become the fourth country to send a man in space, after the erstwhile USSR, the US and China. Denmark also has a manned space flight scheduled for 2022.

India has already completed missions to the moon and Mars.

A look at some of the challenges a space voyager faces:

1. Gravity field: Transitioning from one gravity field to another is tricky. It affects hand-eye and head-eye coordination. Nasa has learned that without gravity working on the human body, bones lose minerals. Even after you return from a space mission, you could be at greater risk of osteoporosis-related fractures. If you do not exercise and eat properly, you will lose muscle strength. You might also develop vision problems.

2. Isolation: No matter how well trained you are, behavioural issues are likely to crop up. Due to isolation, you may encounter depression, fatigue, sleep disorder and psychiatric disorders.

3. Radiation: In space stations, astronauts receive over ten times the radiation than what people are subjected to on Earth. Radiation exposure may increase the risk of cancer. It can damage the central nervous system. Radiation can also cause nausea, vomiting, anorexia, and fatigue.

4. Rockets: Rockets are extreme machines. Travelling in a rocket is like sitting on an exploding bomb which will push your speed from 0 kmph to 29,000 kmph in less than 30 minutes. Many things can go wrong during the launch phase, including the rocket exploding into a fireball. Many safety features have to be built into rocket systems to ensure the probability of loss of life is minimized. However, testing of all these systems in an actual operating environment is next to impossible and a calculated risk has to be taken while embarking on such a mission.

5. Hostile environment: Space is hostile. In addition to lack of gravity and danger of radiation, there is no atmosphere. Human blood starts boiling if there is no pressure. The ‘Gaganyaan’ has to create an atmosphere like Earth inside a small volume and ensure that adequate supply of oxygen, removal of carbon-dioxide and comfortable temperature and humidity levels are maintained throughout the mission.

All things necessary for supporting life like food, water, medicine, and human waste removal have to be addressed.

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