by Elton Gomes
Making a bold statement during his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that by 2022, India will be ready to launch a manned space mission. “Today, I am happy to announce from the ramparts of Red Fort that by 2022, the 75th Independence year, or if possible before that, we will launch a manned space mission. A son or daughter of India will go to space on board ‘Gaganyaan’ with a tricolour in hand,” Modi said in his speech, as per a report in the Times of India.
The prime minister said further, “With the launch of the manned mission, India will become the fourth country in the world (after Russia, US, and China) to send a human in space. I thank the scientific community for their achievements in space technology till now and for working towards the country’s first manned mission.”
Explaining that the rocket to be used for the manned mission would be a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV-Mk III), ISRO chief K. Sivan said, “He will be in a spacecraft, 300-400 km above the earth,” as per an IANS report. Sivan added that there would be two unmanned missions to space: “There will be two unmanned space missions before the actual manned space mission,” he said.
India’s human spaceflight programme, Vyom, was proposed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) about a decade ago. The manned mission is likely to have three crew members and will enter the Low Earth orbit for five to seven days using an indigenous Mark GSLV III launch vehicle.
ISRO remains confident of the 2022 target. “We can achieve the 2022 target that the PM has announced. ISRO already has a crew module, the crew escape system was tested this year, and we have a launch vehicle. Not much more is needed as far as the technology is concerned,” ISRO chairman K Sivan said, as reported by Hindustan Times.
Sivan added that the mission might cost less than Rs 10,000 crore. “For the mission, ISRO will have two unmanned flights before the final one manned one. The first unmanned flight is likely to be tested within two years and the timeline for the rest will be decided accordingly,” said Sivan, as per Hindustan Times.
Currently in the “demonstration phase,” the plans include undertaking two unmanned flights and one human flight using Indian technology. ISRO has reportedly spent Rs 173 crore in developing crucial technologies for human space flight. The plan was initially presented in 2008, but was put on the backburner as the economy suffered a setback.
Ready for takeoff
Although 2022 might seem like a tight schedule for a manned mission to space, ISRO has expressed confidence of reaching the deadline. “It came as a surprise to us, I was not expecting this but it is a great gift to ISRO and we are confident of sending Indians to space in the next four years, although it is a tight schedule,” Sivan said, as reported by the Times of India. Sivan took note of the fact that ISRO will now have to begin the process of sourcing human resource in order to set up a team.
As per an NDTV report, Sivan said that India’s manned mission to space could create 15,000 jobs. He added that the Indian Air Force will begin the selection of astronauts, while ISRO will work with a Bengaluru-based institute to train the crew. ISRO is looking to collaborate with scientific institutions, academia, industry, and start-ups to make the mission successful. “The human spaceflight will be a national project and not just ISRO’s, as we will be collaborating with several institutions, academia and the industry,” Sivan said, NDTV reported.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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