Bhubaneswar: It’s certainly a proud moment for every Odia as Nikhil Rath, a native of Bolangir district in Odisha is one among the initially shortlisted 25 test pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF) for India’s ambitious Gaganyaan Mission project.
Nikhil, a Wing Commander is one among those selected by the IAF in the Level-1 of Indian Astronaut selection at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Bangalore.
The 25 selected test pilots will undergo training in Russia for the Gaganyaan Mission for a year.If Nikhil finds a place in the final list; he will be among the three astronauts to go to space for a seven-day mission flying a spacecraft.
Nikhil is the son of Ashok Rath, a senior lawyer and politician of Bolangir district and Kusum Rath, a member of Women Commission.
After completing his schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya in Bolangir and 12th from Delhi Public School in 2000 while pursuing his graduation he qualified for National Defence Academy (NDA) and later joined the IAF in 2003.
Notably, the first Gaganyaan flight scheduled for 2022 will carry three astronauts, who will be picked from among the test pilots in the armed forces.
The ambitious Gaganyaan Mission was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day speech in 2018.