Diversify space crew: Astronauts to Isro

Global scientists say crew should have doctors, engineers.

BENGALURU: Astronauts from across the world held out a message for Isro on the parameters for selection of crew members for a journey into space: Introduce new criteria for selection of the crew and diversify the process of selection to help doctors, scientists, engineers and others to make the cut.

Reason: If all crew members are combat pilots, they will think alike about solving a problem during the space odyssey but if the crew includes doctors, engineers, scientists or scuba divers, they will think in diverse ways about solving the problem.

The message emerged at a discussion among astronauts from France, Germany, US, UAE and a lone cosmonaut from Russia held in Bengaluru on Thursday as part of the international symposium on “Human Spaceflight & Exploration: Present Challenges & Future Trends.”

It was Sultan Al Neyadi of the UAE who mooted the idea of a change in the selection process of crew members.

“Being an engineer helped me a lot as we have the mindset to deal with equipment and communicate with colleagues who are working in different modules. I know that many people think that pilots are most favourable candidates for space flight, but though that is true, everyone provides inputs to make a successful flight, whether a doctor or an engineer,” he explained at the discussion.

He was backed by French astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy who said, “If all the crew members are pilots, they will think the same way about a problem but if the astronauts are doctors, engineers or scientists, such a diverse combination will increase the possibility of evolving innovative solutions to the problem. Russia took the initiative to diversify the crew from pilots to engineers, but Nasa, with the Space Shuttle programme, got scientists or even scuba divers to join the crew.

He said new criteria must be introduced for selection of crew for missions to Mars as the crew members will face many psychological challenges during the long journey to the Red Planet.

Russian cosmonaut Dr Oleg Kotov said, “I am still a physician though I served as commander of the mission, so there’s no transition from a physician to a commander.”

On decommissioning of the Space Shuttle by Nasa in 2011, astronaut Alvin Drew said, “We expected a new spacecraft sitting at the Kennedy Space Station, but it did not happen that way. We were all emotional when we got to know about decommissioning of ‘Discovery.’

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