Reports indicate that the Indian media has branded its astronauts as “vyomanauts”, a word derived from the Sanskrit language.
According to a report in New Scientist, the tongue-twisting term comes from the Sanskrit for sky or space – that is – ‘vyoma’.
The closest Sanskrit word to astronaut would have been vyomagami, for something that passes in the sky.
The other word for an Indian spacefarer that had been bandied about was gaganaut, as gagan is also Sanskrit for sky.
But “vyoma is very good”, according to Choudury Upender Rao, a professor of Sanskrit studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “It’s an appropriate choice,” he added
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is now in the process of choosing four vyomanauts from a pool of 200 fighter pilots, P. Madhusoodanan of the Indian Air Force.
India’s first crewed space mission is scheduled for 2015, designs for which were unveiled last year by Madhavan Nair, former chairman of ISRO.
The three-person vehicle will initially carry two vyomanauts into 275-kilometre low-Earth orbit. Before this flight, ISRO will launch its second moon mission in 2013.