Stepping up space cooperation, ISRO and France's space agency, CNES, on Thursday inked an agreement to collaborate on Gaganyaan, ISRO's first manned space mission.
The two countries have formed a working group for the Gaganyaan project.
The ambit of the cooperation includes giving ISRO access to space hospital facilities in France and combining expertise of ISRO and CNES in the fields of space medicine, astronaut health monitoring, life support, radiation protection, space debris protection and personal hygiene systems, the president of the French space agency, Jean-Yves Le Gall, said.
The MoU was signed to define the conditions in which we are going to work together, the CNES president said.
India plans to send three humans to space before 2022. ISRO's Gaganyaan mission is significant as it would make India one of the four countries in the world after Russia, US and China to launch a manned space flight.
“The first step under the MoU is to exchange specialists to work on [space] medicine. We are going to send our specialists to identify exactly what we are going to do together. We have facilities like space hospital in France, and so we are exchanging notes on the topic,” Gall said in an interaction with PTI.
Engineering teams have already begun discussions and it is envisioned that infrastructure such as CADMOS centre for development of microgravity applications and space operations or the MEDES space clinic will be used for training of future Indian astronauts, as well as exchange of specialist personnel, Gall said.
ISRO plans to conduct experiments on microgravity through its astronauts.
The seeds of the MoU were sown when India and France released a joint vision statement on space cooperation during French President Emmanuel Marcon's visit to Delhi this March.
Under the vision statement, it was agreed that ISRO and CNES would jointly develop capabilities and critical technologies addressing radiation-shielding solutions, personal hygiene and waste management system and design of man-in-loop simulators for human space flight as well as bioastronautics.
ISRO chairman K. Sivan said the joint vision statement was an umbrella agreement, while Thursday's MoU was more specific to the Gaganyaan space mission.
French-Indian space cooperation spans the areas of climate monitoring, with a fleet of joint satellites devoted to research and operational applications and innovation through a joint technical group tasked with inventing launch vehicles of the future.
ISRO and CNES also plan to work on Mars, Venus and asteroids.
Gall said, "The joint Oceansat 3-Argos mission scheduled to launch next year, the French-Indian Trishna thermal infrared imaging satellite are being readied, and a study to develop a joint constellation of satellites for maritime domain awareness is also under way.”
France is one of the three countries—the other two being the US and Russia—that share robust cooperation with India in the three strategic areas of defence, nuclear energy and space.