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India, France in discussion for Mission Alpha-like equipment for Gaganyaan astronauts

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NEW DELHI (PTI): Space agencies of India and France are in an advanced stage of discussions for providing necessary equipment to ‘Gaganyaan’ astronauts, similar to the one to be used by French astronaut Thomas Pesquet for ‘Mission Alpha’ next year, officials said.

A senior official of the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), the space agency of France, said work on the equipment for ‘Mission Alpha’ is on.

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, as part of the European Space Agency (ESA), will be returning to the International Space Station (ISS) while flying on Crew Dragon spacecraft early next year.

"Discussions are in the final stage. An announcement is likely to be made soon. Work on the instrumentation for ‘Mission Alpha’ is on," the CNES official said without elaborating on the details of the equipment.

India and France share a robust collaboration in the area of space. Space agencies of the two countries are also collaborating on nearly Rs 10,000 crore Gaganyaan mission that aims to send three Indians to space by 2022.

Last year, flight surgeon Brigitte Godard, then with the CNES, was in India to train physicians and engineers.

France has a well-established mechanism for space medicine. It also has the MEDES (French Institute of Space Medicine and Physiology) space clinic, a subsidiary of CNES, where space surgeons undergo training.

"The Indian space surgeons will also go to France next year once the coronavirus situation eases," an ISRO official said. He also did not comment on specific collaboration for supply of the equipment to Gaganyaan astronauts.

Four short-listed Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots and prospective astronauts for the Gagangyaan mission are currently undergoing training in Russia.

Meanwhile, 'Alpha' was chosen as the name for Pesquet's new mission after a competition organised by the European Space Agency in partnership with CNES that attracted more than 27,000 entries.

The name came up 47 times in the entries received.

Pesquet, who spent six months on ISS between November 2016 and June 2017, is currently training with Crew Dragon spacecraft and station simulators for ‘Mission Alpha’.

To give Europe's scientists an opportunity to gain access to ISS and to coordinate activities on the station, the ESA has established User Support and Operations Centres (USOC), of which the CADMOS centre for the development of microgravity applications and space operations at CNES's Toulouse Space Centre is one, according to an official statement on Mission Alpha.

For human space flights, CADMOS is the point of contact between the ground segments in Europe, the United States and Russia and the science teams supporting astronauts, as they perform experiments in real time, it added.

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