‘Gaganyaan showcasing India’s ambitious space expedition

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It also educates us on the importance of a spacesuit, the making of the indigenous launch vehicle, and the technologies that the makers have to master in case it needs to succeed in the dangerous or complex mission as Gaganyaan…reports Troy Rebeiro

‘Gaganyaan: Bharat Ki Antariksh Udaan’ (streaming on discovery+), Duration: 47 minutes, Director: Pria Somiah, Cast: Rakesh Sharma, Air Cmdr (Rtd) Ravish Malhotra, Chethan Kumar, Dr K. Radhakrishnan, Dr S. Somanath, Dimitry Loskutor, Sunita Williams, Raj Chengappa, Dr Bridgette Godard (Rating: ***)

This 47-minute documentary, streaming on discovery+, showcases India’s ambitious odyssey of sending Indian astronauts into space in an Indian spacecraft by 2023.

The film begins with narrator Rahul Mulani telling us who was the first person who went into space in 1961 and ever since then over 500 astronauts from 41 countries have gone into space and that today, only USA, Russia, and China can launch crewed spacecraft.

He further tells us that now India is set to join this very exclusive club, thereby ushering in a new era in history, making India a major space superpower.

The documentary dissects the extremely complex and dangerous mission through the viewpoints of three astronauts – Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian in space, Sunita Williams, a NASA astronaut, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov.

With a vast range of talking heads, the narrative elaborates about the qualities required to be an astronaut, the number of astronauts that will be finally selected for the mission, and about Vyommitra, the female-looking spacefaring humanoid robot developed by ISRO who would accompany the human astronauts in space.

It also educates us on the importance of a spacesuit, the making of the indigenous launch vehicle, and the technologies that the makers have to master in case it needs to succeed in the dangerous or complex mission as Gaganyaan.

Narrated in a non-linear manner, the film charts the one-and-a-half-decade-long audacious and challenging journey of India’s human flight programme from developing its state-of-the-art cryogenic engine, testing of flights, and rigorous astronaut training to the final preparations and anticipation before its launch.

The telling is supported with archival footage, modern graphical representations of the complex processes, and bytes from eminent personalities from the space fields, who include Dr K Radhakrishnan – Former Chairman of ISRO, Dr S. Somanath – Former Director of VSSO and current Chairman of ISRO, Retired Air Commodore Ravish Malhotra who was the former Test Pilot of the Indian Air Force, Dimitry Loskutor, Director General of Glavkosmos, and Dr Bridgette Godard, Flight Surgeon from European Astronaut Center.

The film’s emotional power does not come from the visuals that document the subject but from the spoken words of Raj Chengappa, the Group Editorial Director of a publishing house, and Chethan Kumar, Assistant Editor – Space, Science & Defence of another publication. Glowing with grandiose pronouncements and uplifting sentiments, they speak with so much conviction and authority that you feel proud and motivated with patriotic fervour.

Overall, the film achieves its goal of edutainment.

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